Kim's Reviews > Wickett's Remedy

Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg
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's review
Aug 28, 2011

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bookshelves: adult-fiction, fiction, historical-fiction, reviewed-for-slj, young-adult-fiction
Read in August, 2005

From December 2005 School Library Journal:
It is 1918 and America is on the brink of entering Europe’s Great War. Lydia Kilkenny, a Boston shopgirl, is swept up in a hurried romance with Henry Wickett, a young medical student who soon after their marriage casts his studies aside in favor of developing a remedy to help rejuvenate people who suffer from “hypochondriacal illnesses.” His mail order business enjoys some success, but when he contracts influenza, Lydia is suddenly left a widow. Before she has time to grieve, the people of America find themselves battling a deadly pandemic of influenza. Although she has no nursing experience, Lydia feels compelled to help. She joins on as a research assistant to doctors who use inmates as subjects in experiments designed to better understand the spread of the disease. While Lydia is struggling to deal with the horrors of the outbreak, a parallel story develops as Quentin Driscoll, her husband’s one-time business partner, steals the formula for Wickett’s Remedy and turns it into a soft drink empire.
Goldberg’s recreation of this fascinating segment of American history is meticulously researched and well-executed. Each chapter ends with period newspaper articles and letters that add to the local flavor of the story and give subtle insights into unfolding events. The use of voices in the margins of the pages, however, serves more as a distraction than as an asset to the multiple stories that are woven together.
Goldberg’s closing comments are powerful in their simplicity: the fact that more Americans died in this ten-month pandemic than were killed in all of the twentieth-century wars will be eye-opening to readers. While she notes some of the books that she used in her research, a more detailed bibliography would be helpful to high school students and others interested in this period of our history.

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