Lindsay's Reviews > Wickett's Remedy

Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg
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's review
Feb 09, 2011

it was ok
Read in January, 2006

I first read this book a few years ago and always wanted to write something on it. I don’t remember it being the most engrossing book I’ve ever read but there’s an addition to the narrative that’s fascinating.

In Boston in the early twentieth century, a shop girl named Lydia marries above her station to Henry, a medical student from a wealthy family. She’s disappointed, however, when her husband drops out of school to pursue a new venture, a mail-order medicine called Wickett’s Remedy. He’s convinced that the real remedy is the personal letters he writes to each person who orders it. The “remedy” described sounds like an early form of soda drink.

Germophobes, turn away. Around about this time, the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 hits Boston and wipes out friends and family, one by one. Lydia takes work as a nurse while her husband’s dodgy partner runs off with the recipe to the medicine and begins marketing it as QD Soda.

The fascinating part of the novel is the running commentary in the wide margins. Main characters, secondary characters, characters never mentioned anywhere else in the novel—they all add little snippets of info to the third person narrative. On one of Lydia and Henry’s first dates, the story reports that Henry spilled a glass of water while he’s overexcited about something. The notes in the margin read, “Henry remembers Lydia spilling the water.” Later, Henry leaves a note for his wife, which Lydia includes in her version of the story. The notes in the margin report that, as she only read the note once, her recollection is inaccurate, and includes the actual letter.

The weird thing is that I originally thought the author was making a statement about the unreliability of the narrator, but wouldn’t that statement be more effective if the story was told in the first person? It confuses the message a bit when the narrator is supposed to be omniscient.

I remember the plot jumping around a bit, especially near the end but those marginal notes make it worth a read.

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