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Charani's Gift

An Historical Novel


Available in Kindle and paperback

At the dawn of modern psychiatry, two doctors encounter an astonishing young woman who will alter the course of medical history in this powerful novel of a time when the self was still a mystery, and magic was real.

In 1898, Hamlin, Missouri, known as the Lourdes of the Plains, draws in health-seekers from all over America. Some say the state asylum is to blame, as if the mind-cure fever that has the town in its grip were contagious. Private asylums have sprung up all over town, and business at the Higgs and Price Sanatorium is booming.

But the tidy lives of the two young doctors are turned upside down by the arrival of Clara, a trance-speaker from the dime museum. She has escaped from the asylum, and now she seems to have several people inside of her, fighting for control. In order to restore Clara to wholeness, the doctors join forces with the ladies of the Circle, a group of suffragists and mediums.

Time is running short, though. In town, a war is raging between rival mind-cure factions. Someone is rounding up the women of the Circle and committing them to the asylum. Higgs and Price are determined to put a stop to it.

Based on real events, Charani’s Gift is the story of one remarkable young woman’s inner strength, reimagining the western frontier as the borderland between science and magic.

Winner 2023 Independent Publishers of New England Book Award in Genre Fiction

Our judges called this an excellent work of historical fiction, one that reads as a “very successful blend of genre fiction and literary fiction in no small part because of its success on the level of style and the quality of the writing.” The characters are compelling; the story, immersive; the prose, vivid and clear. And the history, harrowing. The author has done his research — into 19th-century asylums, the burgeoning ideas of psychiatry, the huckster strategies of a Missouri sanitorium, and the philosophy of William James, into clairvoyants and mediums and suffragettes — and then woven it deftly into the storyline. The overall impact? Transporting.

"Meticulously researched and well-paced novel taking us into the late nineteenth century world of psychotherapy, medicine shows and “madness” out on the Plains. In Missouri a young woman is thrown into a lunatic asylum. Most see her as nothing more than a fraudulent medium who impersonates Lincoln and Franklin, then sells a sham medicinal tonic to dupes. But what if she were hiding her true powers in plain sight?"

-from a reviewer on Goodreads


Robert Nolin 

Certain books can change our lives. E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime was such a book for me. It was my introduction to historical fiction, and it was nothing less than a revelation: historical novels didn’t have to be about wars. My debut novel, Charani’s Gift, was inspired by an article about a turn-of-the-century Missouri town in the grip of “magneto madness.” There was a lunatic asylum outside the town, so I began my story with a pair of young psychiatrists. I needed to give them a proper subject. To my surprise, she turned out to be the story’s protagonist. I’ve begun a second novel about the effort to save the American bison from extinction.


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