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3.74  ·  Rating details ·  874 ratings  ·  156 reviews
Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s nationally bestselling novel, Tumbling, immersed us into Philadelphia’s black community during the Civil Rights era, and she returns to the city in this new historical novel about a cast of 19th-century characters whose colorful lives intersect at the legendary Lazaretto—America’s first quarantine hospital.

Isolated on an island where two rivers m
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 12th 2016 by Harper
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  874 ratings  ·  156 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Post Civil War, Philadelphia, on the evening of President Lincoln's assassination a few things will happen that will effect some of these characters but will remain a secret untold for decades. Relations between blacks and whites were still fraught with mistrust and anger, anger that sometimes boiled over. Many also thought that orphans were throwaway children. All these things would come to a head at the Lazaretto, the first quarantine hospital built in the United States.

Wonderful descriptive
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved every bit of this book. Diane McKinney-Whetstone is a master storyteller from beginning to end. I know it's a bit early in the year to call this my favorite read of 2016, so I'll just leave it at being in the Top 5. Going to be hard to get better than this though.

For a more detailed review, check out Stacia Brown's article in the Washington Post. She took the words right out of my mouth: ‘Lazaretto’ is a historical novel — and a perfect book for the end of the Obama era
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2016

So apparently my love for civil war-era novels is not all-encompassing, because even though this book seemed right up my alley I could not get engaged. The author seemed distracted by her own plot lines, jumping from character to character and glossing over months, sometimes years of developments with a single exposition-heavy paragraph. None of their characters ever seemed developed, and their actions were never justified or explored for this reason (see: Meda's relationship with Ann, a relatio
Angela M
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The quarantine hospital called Lazaretto, outside of Philadelphia just after the Civil War is the setting for the second half of this novel . It is the place where people's paths cross in a ways that change there lives but it was the first half that held for me the real basis of what the book is about. This is when the author pulled me into the lives of this cast of characters that are so appealing that you just have to know what will happen to them . They are loving and kind women caring for ch
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I absolutely enjoyed this book. Check out my thoughts in my YouTube video
Nadine Jones
I chose this book by closing my eyes in my public library, having my daughter lead me to some shelves, and then choosing the book with my eyes still closed, all to satisfy a 2020 Popsugar reading challenge prompt. This book is the perfect example of why I do not normally choose books that way.

This book is so meandering, it made me realize why I like genre fiction so much - because at least then I know where the book is going, there's a romance or a quest or a mystery, there's a point to the stor
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In the aftermath of the American civil war, on the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, two women whose paths cross briefly, are inadvertently linked for years. At the start of the story, a young black woman named Meda is toiling to give birth. The midwife's assistant Sylvia is shocked when the baby's father, takes the baby away and orders her to tell Meda the was stillborn. The secret will haunt Sylvia for the rest of her life. As a means to ease her grief, Meda bonds with two boys, Linc a ...more
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love the way this author sets a scene; her description of a crowd of people sitting and talking and eating and playing cards tells you everything about their personalities and is full of historical detail. I didn't love that occasionally she'd do that at a dramatic point when the tension was high and I needed to know what happened next, but that's not the kind of book this is. The plot was saved from potential melodrama by the quiet way she let it play out, stopping here and there to check in ...more
Brian TramueL
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Favorite read of 2016.
Sep 26, 2016 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Wanda by: Idarah
26 SEP 2016 - spied on Eve's Instagram feed. I live about 1-1/2 hours from Philadelphia. I did not know about this. Fascinating. Thanks, Eve!
Lael Braday
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
After Sylvia helps deliver her first baby as an apprentice midwife, Meda, the mother, leaves believing the baby died at the request of the father, her wealthy, white employer. Meda tends to her grief by volunteering at an orphanage, where she takes on the care of two babies and helps raise them. Sylvia assuages her guilt by throwing herself into nursing, obtaining a post at Lazaretto, the first quarantine hospital in the U.S. Though from different socio-economic levels, Sylvia and Meda’s lives b ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Whew. There were a LOT of characters in this book. The second half of the book, I had a hard time keeping them all straight. There was a huge gap in time between the two; Bram and Linc were both babies, toddlers, and adolescents in the first half, the second half they are grown men trying to find their way.

However, the heart of the story is a doozy, and one that I had never heard of. It explores the love between brothers, between mother and son, romantic loves, and love between friends. I enjoy
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
despite some flaws that really nagged at me, i did enjoy this book. i appreciated the characters and the setting/time. i loved the medical aspects of the story. i felt like characters could have developed further, and plots could have gone deeper in several areas -- in particular, the relationship between meda and ann. i mean, that right there could have been a novel unto itself: black woman and white woman fall in love during the aftermath of abraham lincoln's assassination. (this is one exampl ...more
Stephanie Stennett
This could have been a four star book. Maybe should have been. What it lacked was a good editor. Parts needed tightening. Other parts should have been expanded, or fleshed out. But publishers can't be bothered anymore. Sad.
(And don't get me started on the copy editing errors. Appalling!)
Sadly I never got really attached to most of the characters, except maybe Sylvia, who chooses medicine over domestic entanglement.
Sylvia deserves her own sequel. I'd love to read it.
I also think McKinney-Whets
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well. Wow. There was a lot about this book I didn't anticipate. The tone can be a bit challenging for a reader like me - there's a lot of hardship and injustice and tragedy. I can't lie. I found that rough going. There were things that kept my optimistic side happy and kept me reading, like Meda's love for Bram and Linc, or the friendship between Sylvia and Nevada, although so many rugs got pulled out from under me that it was hard to trust any of the nice things. But the world and the community ...more
Nov 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 for the pacing and prose. Although the cast of characters are plentiful, she manages to craft a good tale with some real life elements. The major drawback in this novel was the suspense and tension she built into the story was telegraphed and easy to discern which distracted from the overall story, because you know the mysteries early on. So instead of staying engaged with that anxious anticipation and being surprised about some detail, you end up reading to see when and how the "secrets" wi ...more
Michael Bell
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of my favorite authors. Her sense of time and place is second to none. the death of Abraham Lincoln is a cause for mourning in Philadelphia during the period of this book. A midwife delivers a child that was supposed to be aborted. The young assistant makes a choice that shapes the novel immensely. There is not too much brutality towards Blacks thankfully but an incident does mar a celebration. I thought Vergie was the answer. Read for yourself and enjoy the Philly based novel.
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
So good! A richly written historical novel that begins with a young midwife's helper training to be a nurse and spins out from there. I loved the first half more than the second (where we finally reach the titular Lazaretto) but I still enjoyed the latter too. And I think it ended in just the right place. ☺️
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Picked this up on a whim and I'm so glad I did. I loved this book. Just kept getting better as the end neared and we began to see how tightly the stories wove together. Only holding back from five stars because it felt like it needed one more chapter to tie things up.
Daniel Shindler
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This author has a beautiful command of language. She evokes time and place with vivid accuracy. All her books are set in Philadelphia. In this novel, she recreates the post civil war period and infuses her characters with breathtaking life, interactions and emotions. This novel is a must read.
Jaclyn Norkus
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
Giving it 2 because the writing was okay. The beginning was strong but it fell apart pretty quickly. Too many characters, all barely touched below surface introductions. Main plot lines that were never explored. Ended up being very boring and tedious- I was very glad to finish it.
Alisha W
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible. I also don't know what more to say. Great character development with a perfect mix of history, race, class & love. ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This was okay. It was very long.
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lazaretto was very intriguing to read. Diane McKinney-Whetstone has been blessed with the phenomenal ability to keep her reader interested throughout. I honestly did not want to put the book down. A Philadelphia transplant from Savannah, I am very familiar with the Lazaretto facility in what is now Essington, PA, just outside of Southwest Philly, in Delaware County. The site has since been transformed into a tourist site with a nearby ballroom given the same name.

Before there was Ellis Island,
I read many novels about Black lives and Black life, but very few are set in the aftermath of the Civil War. That period was a peculiar historical moment--it held much promise, but ultimately, Emancipation left the plight of Black Americans ambiguous. They were no longer enslaved, but not quite free--citizens in name, but not in truth. The rights of Black folks were uncertain, and the death of Radical Reconstruction, along with the birth of Black Codes and Jim Crow, made it clear that the notion ...more
Michelle Leonard
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've been a fan of Diane McKinney-Whetstone for years (no relation that I'm aware of). I was so happy to see a new title being released this year and even happier when I won a free copy of it via Goodreads Giveaways.

The book is centered around a young midwife, Sylvia and her first birthing mother, Meda, who believes she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. The book follows their separate paths into adulthood. Their stories intertwine at Lazaretto, a quarantine hospital near Philadelphia when Me
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Had a hard time sticking with this book. McKinney presents a tangle of characters and events in tumultuous post-Civil war society. It is an interesting story: a young midwife-in-training delivers her first baby in an unwelcome world. The child is immediately whisked away for better or worse, and the mother, a servant in a wealthy household, is paralyzed by grief. What follows is a drawn-out tale that explores the parallel lives of two children. The ending does provide the reader with some satisf ...more
Pam Joslin
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This could have been a really really good book. I was fascinated with the characters from the beginning and felt myself being drawn into their lives. I liked the beginning and where the story seemed to be leading me. Unfortunately, the last third of the book could have been a little tighter. I felt the author was attempting to tie up all the loose ends and sometimes life just isn't like that. Saying that, it's a good read with a lot of potential. I'd like to read some more by this author.
Latonya Rochelle
My goodness...Diane McKinney-Whetstone is a masterful storyteller and author. Her writing style is exceptional and exquisite. The novel begins on the night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The characters are very rich and endearing. The Lazaretto is a real post-Civil War location, a quarantine station built in response to Philly's yellow fever epidemic, yet so much happens even before the Lazaretto sets stage in Part 2. Loved it from start to finish!
Pam Priddy
May 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Major disappointment for me - the description caught me, the beginning of the book grabbed me, I was loving this book and then,.... It just lost me. I kept reading, kept trying, and finally gave up 1/2 way through. And honestly, I haven't given any of them a second thought since I put the book down. Oh well....
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