“When I was twelve years old, I almost killed my sister. I sometimes thought it might have been better if I had, instead I turned her into a paraplegic. We were down at the creek, jumping in and out of the water. I told her I would race her to the other side of the creek from the big tree. I pretended to do a running dive, but stopped at the last second; she didn’t. Cheryl dived into the shallow water, the sound of my laughter in her ears, and came up a paraplegic.”
Kent Alpine has a debt to repay to his sister. His life’s mission is to find a way to help her walk again. At first he studies medicine, but realising he is not as gifted as other students, he turns to the thing he excels in: psychic healing. He joins a mysterious group working to improve the health of children who have terminal illnesses. In the meantime, his fiancee runs off with a more worldly acquaintance.
At Mystic Lodge, he meets interesting people, a self-proclaimed witch, and the leader of the psychic healers, Forrest Atman. But just as they are apparently getting positive results healing the children, the whole setup is exposed as a scam by a TV program. Kent is devastated, now destitute, he connects with another healing group. The organiser, Darcy— who is an old friend of Forrest Atman— tells Kent how Forrest lost his way and became nothing more than a scammer.
Darcy tells Kent he has, after 20 years of study and experiments, achieved a breakthrough in real psychic healing. He asks Kent to follow a detailed and intensive course for six months, so that Kent can become proficient in psychic healing. Despite the risk of insanity, Kent follows the teachings, but when they take a turn into the dark side: death, channelling, and Voodoo he abandons Doyle and his friend, ‘The Great Beast’.
Kent is once again adrift, he returns to life as a supermarket stacker, living in his car. He reconnects with the ‘witch’ and Forrest Atman, and enlists their help to cure his paraplegic sister, now on the road to suicide. Her life is in decay, she has bouts of schizophrenia connected with heavy marijuana usage and a depressing lifestyle. They manage a partial cure, but require money to pay for physiotherapy and deep muscle massage. His sister enlists the aid of a TV station to raise money for her continued treatment, only to find she is condemned as another scammer: a fake paraplegic who pretends to be cured.
Kent and some friends find a way to continue her treatments, and eventually she regains the use of her legs. Forrest, the brilliant researcher, has been publicly condemned as a fake. He travels to Europe to have his methods tested objectively.
Set in Melbourne 2010, this novel deals with the underworld of psychic healing, sexual escapades, and the gritty side of life.
Bridget yelled at me: ’You don’t care why Prince died! That’s all I wanted to know, why he died. And now I am heartbroken.’
To prove it she started sobbing, then screaming, pleading for the baby to come back, she was so distraught she started banging her forehead on the floor. I bent and tried to restrain her, but it was difficult. Another woman came, and helped, she sobbed in her arms. I stood up and started to move away, and it was then I realised that the woman who comforted Bridget was naked under her monk’s gown. I could see her breast had come out from the clothing. And when I looked at the others, I saw they were all naked beneath their gowns. Some people had not fastened the gowns at the waist with the belt, or the gowns had drifted wide open, perhaps on purpose.
Bridget was inconsolable; she kept calling, Prince, Prince, Prince! while weeping. Her grief overwhelmed me; I felt every tear, all her pain. I looked for Colin Prince, he now had the chance to console her, to offer a crumb of sympathy. He was holding Rowena’s hand as they walked out towards the balcony. I could see the shimmering breasts of Rowena, her gown fully open for all to see her naked black glory, sprinkled with specs of silver glitter all the way down to her genitals. Prince looked like he wanted to get away from the bothersome noise that Bridget was making. He went out onto the balcony without a backward glance. That was so like Prince: travelling like a bulldozer, crushing and maiming, never stopping, never looking back.