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Wickett's Remedy


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About the Author

Myla Goldberg is the author of the bestselling Bee Season, which was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2000 and made into a film, and, most recently, of Time's Magpie, a book of essays about Prague. Her short stories have appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, and failbetter. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


The author of the bestselling Bee Season returns with an accomplished but peculiarly tensionless historical novel that follows the shifting fortunes of a young Irish-American woman. Raised in tough turn-of-the-century South Boston, Lydia Kilkenny works as a shopgirl at a fancy downtown department store, where she meets shy, hypochondriacal medical student Henry Wickett. After a brief courtship, the two marry (Henry down, Lydia decidedly up) in 1914. Henry quits school to promote his eponymous remedy, whose putative healing powers have less to do with the tasty brew that Lydia concocts than with the personal letters that Henry pens to each buyer. After failing to pass the army physical as the U.S. enters WWI, Henry quickly, dramatically dies of influenza, and Lydia returns to Southie, where she watches friends, neighbors and her beloved brother die in the 1918 epidemic. A flu study that employs human subjects is being conducted on Boston Harbor's Gallups Island; lonely Lydia signs on as a nurse's assistant, and there finds a smidgen of hope and a chance at a happier future. A pastiche of other voices deepens her story: chapters close with snippets from contemporary newspapers, conversations among soldiers and documents revealing the surprising fate of Wickett's Remedy. And the dead offer margin commentaryAby turns wistful, tender and corrective (and occasionally annoying). Yet as well-researched, polished and poignant as the book is, Goldberg never quite locks in her characters' mindsets, and sometimes seems adrift amid period detritus. While readers will admire Lydia, they may not feel they ever truly know her. Agent, Wendy Schmalz. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Irish shopgirl Lydia marries doctor-to-be Henry Wickett, who promptly quits medical school to sell a patent medicine called Wickett's Remedy. And then the Spanish flu hits. More excitement from Bee Season author Goldberg; with a national tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-As America is on the brink of entering the Great War, Lydia Kilkenny, a Boston shopgirl, marries Henry Wickett, a young medical student. Shortly thereafter, he casts his studies aside in favor of developing a remedy to help sufferers 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, Americans find themselves battling a deadly pandemic. Although she has no nursing experience, Lydia feels compelled to help. She joins on as a research assistant to doctors experimenting on inmates to better understand the spread of the disease. A parallel story develops as her husband's onetime business partner steals the formula for Wickett's Remedy and develops a soft-drink empire. Goldberg's re-creation 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 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 tales that are woven together. The author's closing comments are powerful in their simplicity: more Americans died in this 10-month pandemic than were killed in all of the 20th-century wars.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Brilliant. . . . A wonderfully courageous second novel." -Newsday

"Remarkable. . . . A historically credible account of the period just after America entered the First World War, when 'the Spanish Lady' laid waste to Boston and much of the rest of the country." -Salon "Her second novel is of a piece with [Bee Season] in its invention and stylistic skill. . . . A warmhearted, unusual and intelligent consideration of a world about which few people know." -San Francisco Chronicle "An engrossing look at how one young woman grows through personal losses at a time when so many lost so much." -The Philadelphia Inquirer

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