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The Laying on of Hands: A Novel Paperback – May 4, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With its clarity and economy, Miller's debut about God-given gifts reads like a first-person parable, as 80-year-old Charlotte Tyler Preston looks back on her life. Known as Muchie while growing up in the 1910s, she lived on a rural Mississippi farm that was home to her parents, her nine siblings and her beloved grandmother, Tyler Mama ("I truly believed my grandmother had hung the moon"), from whom she inherited the gift of healing. Though slowed down occasionally by wooden, expository dialogue, the plot moves along apace, following Muchie as she grows up; falls in love; moves to Mobile, Ala.; marries and raises a family. Even as she deftly maneuvers the challenges faced by most African-American women in that era-poverty, racism, makeshift schools and even color discrimination within her own community-she has a tougher time making this so-called healing gift (which she never wanted) work at her bidding. She can turn a breech baby and magically reconnect the severed fingers of a sawmill employee, but she's helpless to save those she loves the most. Beginning with the untimely loss of Tyler Mama, whose injuries from a fall off a horse don't respond to Muchie's touch, to the death of her own beloved husband, Muchie feels betrayed by a God who appears to withhold this gift whenever she needs it most. She turns her back on her powers, but a valuable lesson from an unlikely source sets her right again in this uplifting tale about faith and acceptance.
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“The Laying on of Hands is a nostalgic literary journey that wraps around a reader's heart.  It warms the soul, feeds the spirit and reaffirms the power of love."
-- Norma L. Jarrett, author of Sunday Brunch

The Laying on of Hands is a rich and absorbing story as warm and lush as the South where it is set. In this remarkable book, Brenda Rhodes Miller has given us engaging characters who touch deeply and transform us, much as the miracles they perform, showing us in the process the amazing healing power of love.”
--Christopher Benson, author of Special Interest and co-author of Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America

"Brenda Rhodes Miller tells an amazing tale as we journey through the struggles of four generations coping with love's triumphs and tragedies. As I swiftly turned the pages I yearned for the story to never end."
-- Parry 'EbonySatin' Brown author of Sittin' in the Front Pew

"Masterfully conceived, The Laying on Hands evokes a time when faith and family sustained us as a people emerging from slavery. Miss Muchie, Tyler Mama, Teddy, Mr. Winston and all the characters in the novel by Brenda Rhodes Miller live with us and are the kind of people we know and love, or wish we had known."
-- Dr. Dorothy I. Height, author of Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir and Chair/President Emerita, The National Council of Negro Women, Inc.

"In her beautifully crafted novel, Brenda Rhodes Miller weaves a mysterious yet innocent tale that evokes faith at the same time that it makes readers shudder with fear of the unknown."
-- Nicole Bailey-Williams, Ed.M., author of Floating and A Little Piece of Sky

"Family, spirit, faith, loss, acceptance of an awesome yet imperfect gift--these are merely notes and chords in the wonderful song Brenda Rhodes Miller has composed. "Miss Muchie" Winston croons a lifetime of melodies, sweet and bittersweet. Resonant in all of us."
 -- Christopher Chambers, author of Sympathy for the Devil and A Prayer for Deliverance

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (May 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915564
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,536,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on September 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Muchie comes from a family of healers. Her grandmother is known throughout Wayne County, Mississippi, as a midwife who has never lost a baby. Her father is a healer in his own right, having used his gift to cure both man and animal of their physical ailments. Muchie sees this healing gift as both a blessing and a curse. She is awed by her grandmother's gift and her use of various herbs, which are grown right on their own land. She sees the positive impact that her father and grandmother have on the lives of those around her and the sacrifices they make to provide their services free of charge. When Muchie's grandmother tells her that she also has the family gift, she is frightened. In addition, she is reminded of the inconvenience of having to travel long distances any time of the day and night, often at a moments notice to make use of the gift to help others in the community. In spite of this, she embraces the training her grandmother offers and continues her family legacy. After a chain of events, Muchie denounces her gift and gives up healing altogether. As the rest of the story unfolds, she continues to struggle with the blessing and curse of her healing hands. In addition to the story of healing, THE LAYING ON OF HANDS is a love story. Muchie falls in love with a man her family does not approve of, and upon graduation from high school, she must choose whether to respect her family's wishes or pursue her one true love.

THE LAYING ON OF HANDS begins when Muchie is a young child and carries on throughout most of her adult life. As the story unfolded I found myself drifting back to another time and place in history. I felt, through the characters, how social issues such as racism and the color complex influenced every day life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on March 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Meet "Miss Muchie"--an engaging character and the voice of The Laying on of Hands. So nicknamed by her Papa, Muchie's real name is Charlotte, but her family has a tradition of attaching strange and unusual names to each member...names that sometimes were as interesting as the life stories of the individual. In Muchie's case, Papa said that she was his "muchie sweet girl."

Through Miss Muchie's recollections, readers are transported to the Mississippi and Alabama of the 1920s through the 1950s. Miss Muchie, her papa, and her grandmother, "Tyler Mama," have the gift of healing. People for miles and miles come to their home at all hours of the day and night seeking the healing powers of Papa and Tyler Mama. Muchie is certain that she wants no part of these healing powers and resists giving in to them at every opportunity until Muchie is about thirteen and Tyler Mama insists she learns to birth babies.

This is a story of love, hope, faith, life and death. It is also a glimpse into the sometimes-misunderstood realm of "healing" with the most basic of natural commodities--hands and herbs. Tyler Mama teaches Muchie her homespun remedies during the house the two spend in the herb cottage behind their house. She has a potient or an ointment to heal almost any treat the ills that the flesh is heir to. But it is her record of never having lost a mother or baby during childbirth that makes Tyler Mama most proud.

Papa never takes any credit for his healing gifts. Knowing that many so-called healers blamed illness on spells and curses and then offer spells or charms as a way of healing, Papa was quick to say that he believed that most sickness came from the way people worked, ate and lived.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By V. Stearns Elliott on December 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This story really moved me- it flows and reads very easily. It draws you in very quickly. The story and the characters feel very real. I found myself crying when the main character went around her home saying good-by to all the things that she shared with her husband. It was if a friend of mine had lost something and I was crying for her loss. I don't think a book has ever moved me to tears. And I loved the candy cane striped house by the sea. It also gives you a peak into the Southern African American middle class culture, which has charm and warmth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Loose Leaves Book Review on December 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Laying on of Hands is an extraordinary tale of life after slavery. The story chronicles a woman's family, looks into her spirit, details her loss and recognizes the acceptance of God's will. The history of family is important and what sustains them is key. The foundation of this family lays with Tyler Mama and Papa who are both great healers. The main character, Miss Munchie is an intelligent young woman who learns from Tyler Mama, the healing power in her own hands.

New generations see love differently. Miss Munchie loves a man named Teddy hard, deep and forever. They had four beautiful children and a wonderful life until they start to lose faith. Once they stray away from Christ tragedy invaded their happiness and threatened everything they have built together. As the story unfolds, you discover one simple truth, that love triumphs all. 

Friends, family and the faith of a stranger pull Miss Munchie back from the depths of despair. Mr. Winston comes along, blesses her with a job, and showers her children with love. Miss Munchie's business savvy propels the funeral home business to icon status within the state. Through years of love and faith, Miss Munchie opens her heart to God and a man. Her life comes full circle and happiness resides in her soul.

Miller is on top of her craft with this novel. The story is heart- warming while it introduces issues of racism, true love, death, the gift of friendship and ideas of building wealth in the African- American community. The Laying on of Hands chronicles how life can throw curve balls and it's up to you to knock them out of the park.  Miller has definitely done that with this story.

Reviewed by M. Bruner for Loose Leaves Book Review
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