Finding Home Vol 2: The Healer by Hari Conner
Please more of this book. I cannot wait for the third volume. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves slow-burn romances, internal character work, nature, and/or fantasy.
Conner’s writing matches their artwork in tone and in feeling. So much feeling. So much softness and so much nature. Even when a powerful elder attacks Janek, the elder has their own horror beauty. I’d love to see Conner on a monster book.
One of my complaints about the last volume was the handwritten notes between Chepi and Priya were hard to impossible to read, and this volume — while they remain full of handwritten charm — is clearer and easier to read. I felt this clarity allowed the reader to better connect the changes in Chepi’s plant growth that’s associated with his moods. At least, I found myself doing this in a way I didn’t as much in volume one.
Connecting with nature is one powerful way to heal trauma. Study after study says being around nature — or even looking at a photo of a plant — is beneficial to our health, and many therapies, especially for PTSD and anxiety, now include being in gardens or gardening as part of those routines. However, this book also makes a great point about how knowledge about what’s going on with you is key to your healing.
Chepi ran away from the city and his people to deal with his trauma of an abusive relationship and living in a society full of hatred toward people like him. (One thing I do appreciate is Conner addressing that this society is okay with queer people — and how it’s changed over the years.) But Chepi wasn’t empowered to identify what was happening to him, even though he is a healer. He didn’t know what anxiety attacks were, and that’s what was happening to him. Ishaan probably knew but didn’t care enough, and perhaps Rem had no idea because dryads may not get them (we don’t know). And, of course, if your body has some physical changes based on moods, having anxiety-driven panic attacks would certainly manifest itself in a possible scary and dangerous way in a dryad.
In the flashbacks, I appreciated that while it was clear Ishaan was abusive, we also saw a bit about why Chepi loved him, and Ishaan wasn’t a black hat-wearing, twirl your mustache villain. If anything, he was a privileged man, who is one of those people who doesn’t think he’s a racist, yet, ultimately treats Chepi like an expensive toy, not another sentient being and certainly not like someone he respects. Ishaan’s birthday scene shows this exactly in how Ishaan’s friends act like Chepi is a servant to entertain them and Ishaan’s anger about his toy going away and then his possession of Chepi through sex.
I did really love the bits with Chepi and his cousin Rem. While Rem doesn’t understand what Chepi is going through or understand Chepi’s interests in becoming a doctor, Rem does support him and even encourage him to be himself.
After Chepi dug too far into Janek’s memories — which was a risk he knew might happen — it was nice to see Chepi also share with Janek. It made their relationship feel balanced in intimacy, especially since Chepi isn’t naturally a sharer.
I’m mixed on both the hotel scene where Chepi walks in on Janek masturbating (and thinking about Chepi) and then Chepi dealing with his anxiety around being in a town and getting racist bullshit from the innkeeper by drinking himself sick. But drinking is one of Chepi’s harmful coping patterns.
Likewise, mixed on having Janek get hurt. We see a little of the consequences Chepi gets for using such powerful magics — his hair turns gray temporarily — I assume we’ll see more in volume three. Hurt/comfort stories just aren’t my favorite.
As far as their budding romance, I’m glad there was a kiss, and that they addressed a bit of it head-on. Of course, there is never enough time. Not when they’re getting close to Janek’s city, and he knows the watch person Solo. Chepi’s mental state makes him feel immediately ostracized when Janek’s attention is taken elsewhere.
Highly looking forward to the next book. It’s such a lovely comic book that shows the power of the medium.