A Journey of Adventure and Travel in Margaret Clarke’s Healing Song

Margaret Clarke’s Healing Song starts with Roberta, a woman in her mid-thirties who runs away from her children and husband in a small town in Canada because she feels she has reached a stagnant period in her life. Her husband Ray has been noticing various signs of depression and suggests she seek psychological help. He cannot understand why she leaves him as he thinks he is a good provider to her and the family. But Roberta follows her instincts and embarks on a journey of travels and adventures that take her away from her stifled self and escapes to a rented hotel room. While there, she contemplates her next step – connecting to her soul. One could actually call this journey her entry level to the Rites of Initiation which addresses psychological needs such as safety and security, belongingness, interaction with children and self-actualization (finding her soul and uniting her old and new self).

According to Gail Sheehy’s Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life, the most common age for a woman to run away from home is thirty five (Sheehy 264). Being alone gives her the necessary time and space to put her demanding roles aside. For the first time in her adult life, she is not placed in the context of work, family and husband-wife relationship. Roberta’s “care of soul doesn’t mean wallowing in the symptom [of depression,] but it does mean trying to learn from [the symptoms of] depression what qualities the soul needs” (Moore 79) and she begins to fulfill this goal.

Her real adventures begin however, while working at “The Food Bar,” where she meets Nora, an Indian cook with whom she becomes friendly. As she interacts with her new co-workers, she consciously disconnects the past from the present. At the same time, the thought of abandoning her children and loving husband continues to haunt her.

Their growing friendship helps Roberta to rekindle the notion of giving. Nora’s physical features – her black hair and eyes represent nature and mother earth. Roberta feels safe with Nora’s warm, intimate and maternal presence and Nora empathizes with Roberta and encourages her to heal her personal wounds. Later, while sitting in her bedroom at Nora’s house, she admits privately her love for Nora and writes in her journal: “This morning I will think about: Why I left them, last night’s dream, and why I love Nora” (HS 58).

While staying at Nora’s house, time seems to slow down and Roberta welcomes her new pace of living. She develops an acuteness of sense from the simple act of drinking tea to looking at Nora’s furniture. She also observes people talking and their body language. This excessive attention to detail encourages her to pause. “A common symptom of modern life is that there is no time for thought, or even for letting impression of a day sink in. yet it is only when the world enters the heart that it can be made into soul” (Moore 286).

When Roberta finally comes home to her husband Ray and her children, she gradually “lets go” by allowing her children to become individuals, different from herself. With her new found growth, Roberta hopes that Ray will respect her need for privacy. By internalizing these needs, he may be able to heal the wounds extant in their marriage by sharing his trust and love so as to unite the dichotomy of distinct male and female emotions and needs that are not verbalized between them.

As the very title of the novel suggests, the process of healing represents the balance between uncovering an authentic soul in relationships with friends, children and husband and most importantly, with oneself. Roberta’s feat of discovering her authentic soul by herself without her family is the challenge this novel addresses, namely the need to unify thoughts and feelings when unpredicted changes suddenly overtake Roberta’s unstable course of living and she reaches her “Rite-to-Be.”

Works Cited

Clarke, Margaret. Healing Song. Newest Publishers Limited: Canada, 1988.

Moore, Thomas. Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1992.

Sheehy, Gail. Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1974.