[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”1455519065″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61BjytRmqlL.jpg” width=”221″ alt=”Becca Stevens” ]Healing of all Sorts.
A Review of
Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling.
Hardback: Jericho Books, 2013
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Reviewed by Emily Sutterfield
If you feel overwhelmed by the violence of today, disconnected from creation, and disheartened by the inequalities in society, Snake Oil will heal your heart and rebirth a much-needed hope inside.
When I first picked up Snake Oil, I thought it was going to be just another book about some do-gooder starting a non-profit. I was wrong. This is a book that pulls apart the layers of the story of a priest starting a program for abused women. Each layer unfolds in a beautiful way. Organic. Heartbreaking. Hopeful.
Stevens tells her story of growing up in East Nashville and overcoming abuse herself. Her journey of struggles and faith lead her to the Episcopal priesthood and gradually towards Magdelene House – a home for recovering prostitutes and drug addicts.
She weaves stories of the women she works with into each chapter. These stories put you in tears and remind you of the daily pain that is out there. I had to set the book down a time or two just to weep for these women and the abuse they’ve endured.
But Stevens’s story of their suffering doesn’t stop there. She talks of the miraculous healing and transformation that takes place in her own life and the lives of the women she serves in Magdelene House. How through their brokenness they are able to create a business to heal others.
Healing oils – of all sorts – made from organic and mostly local materials, mixed with prayers and love, that is what the women of Magdelene House began to create. Thistle Farms is the name of their business. The name Thistle Farms is ironic, yet fitting for their business. The thistle plant, Stevens explains, is a weed that “for most farmers is the bane of their existence. They’ve spent days wanting to be anywhere but in the field digging up the deepest tap root on the planet.” (51) But she goes on to explain the beauty and strength in these weeds that others throw away, and how the women of Magdelene House are much like the thistle weeds.
As Stevens takes us through the journey of developing and running Thistle Farms, she intertwines beautiful ancient stories of healing from other cultural traditions. From Native American healing teas to snake oils used in Chinese medicine, Stevens connects us to the power of healing all around.
Overall Snake Oil is a book about the creative methods God uses to reveal love to humanity: through simple yet miraculous every day moments; through the sacraments of nature that often go unnoticed; through common folks in uncommon circumstances. Stevens reminds us in her stories that healing is possible through God’s love. “In fields of lavender, thistle and lemongrass, I have found love’s roots and I try to nurture them and share their harvest with fellow travelers. The axioms of love are written into the fabric of creation, so it is right that in that fabric we find the gifts we need to heal one another.” (7)
We live in a rough world with challenges that are sometimes too hard to bear. Becca Stevens acknowledges this suffering. “On the path I was walking, my faith was not going to be tested by suffering. My faith was going to ground me as I walked through suffering in the world.” (18) Her words in Snake Oil offer us a way to find hope, healing and beauty in the midst of our everyday struggles – a soothing balm for the weary soul for sure.