FeaturedHistorical Fiction

Charani's Gift


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A fascinating book filled with anecdotes and knowledge that transcend scientific enquiry and metaphysical discourse.

When does a gift become a curse? How do the stars align to bring a troubled, orphan girl into the refuge of two enterprising psychiatrists, who are questioning the means and methods of treating mental health? Robert Nolin spins a captivating tale based on real events in the city of Hamlin, Missouri, where mental health institutions are mushrooming. Women are forcefully institutionalized for misdemeanors and maladies, even as a group of independent-minded women, the Circle, are raising voices for suffragette. 

In these politically charged times, two young doctors, Higgs and Price are on a path of self-discovery and learning. They question the norms and methods of the business of psychiatry controlled by the "cabals of businessmen, judges, politicians, and asylum administrators." Disillusioned by how patients are treated in asylums, they take it upon themselves to help Clara, a visibly "wasted young woman."

Clara's childhood story is as intriguing as the part where doctors Higgs and Price are playing detective to unearth nefarious dealings of some self-proclaimed healers, and spiritualists. This book brings out the social nuances of the late 19th century, with references to seance, mediums, hypnotism, magnetic healing, telepathy, and traveling performers. In a world of charades and scripted acts, there is a thin line between the make-believe and real afflictions. Higgs and Price must walk this thin line and bring out a fascinating fact of personality disassociation with consequences for modern therapy.

The conversations and antics of the two doctors, and the medium Mrs Dodd, remind one of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The book is well-researched and the narrative flows smoothly. A few pieces in the middle seem repetitive but they help link the story of Clara. There is a tinge of humor in the characters of the two doctors, even as they go about some serious business. There is a nostalgic charm, and an engaging quality in the book. It is an attractive work for both lovers of historical fiction and medical thrillers. 

The title of the book is also interesting. What does Charani mean? As an Indian reader, I infer it to mean a free spirit, like a bird or a nomad. This story is then about the gift of knowledge to the world of science and mental health, through the poignant and profound journey of Clara, the nomad, and her benefactors. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it for it's engaging narrative.

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I am a technical writer and editor by profession and a creative writer in my free time. My poetry and fiction are published in various anthologies. I like to explore the world of words. I express my perspective on books, art, and life on my blog: https://www.bluepenstrokes.com


About the author

Author Robert Nolin lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife, Chris. Charani's Gift is his first novel. view profile

Published on May 08, 2022

90000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Historical Fiction

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