In A Multidimensional, Intricately Wrought Narrative, Myla Goldberg Leads Us Back To Boston In The Early Part Of The Twentieth Century And Into Two Completely Captivating Worlds One Is That Of Lydia, An Irish American Shopgirl With Bigger Aspirations Than Your Average Young Woman From South Boston She Seems To Be Well On Her Way To The Life She Has Dreamed Of When She Marries Henry Wickett, A Shy Medical Student And The Scion Of A Boston Brahmin Family However, Soon After Their Wedding, Henry Abruptly Quits Medical School To Create A Mail Order Patent Medicine Called Wickett S Remedy, And Just As Lydia Begins To Adjust To Her Husband S New Vocation, The Infamous Spanish Influenza Epidemic Of Begins Its Deadly Sweep Across The World, Irrevocably Changing Their Lives In A World Turned Almost Unrecognizable By Swift And Sudden Tragedy, Lydia Finds Herself Working As A Nurse In An Experimental Ward Dedicated To Understanding The Raging Epidemic Through The Use Of Human SubjectsMeanwhile, A Parallel Narrative Explores The World Of QD Soda, The Illegitimate Offspring Of Wickett S Remedy, Stolen Away By Henry Wickett S One Time Business Partner Quentin Driscoll, Who Goes About Transforming It Into A Soft Drink EmpireThroughout The Novel We Hear From A Chorus Of Other Voices Who Offer A Running Commentary From The Book S Margins, Playing Off The Ongoing Narrative And Cleverly Illuminating The Slippery Interplay Of Perception And Memory Based On Years Of Research And Evoking Actual Events, Wickett S Remedy Perfectly Captures The Texture Of The Times And Brings A Colorful Cast Of Characters Vividly To Life None So Than Lydia, A Heroine As Winning And Appealing As Eliza, The Beloved Spelling Champion Of Bee Season With Dazzling Dexterity, Goldberg Has Fashioned A Novel That Beautifully Combines The Intimate And The Epic Wickett S Remedy Announces Her Arrival As A Major Novelist Jacket I liked the book better than the reviewer below I was very interested in the history of the flu epidemic and felt the author did a good job in bringing the period to life I also liked the margin comments by the dead reminded me of the graveyard scene in Our Town They demonstrated how there are always many sides to a story, depending on our perspective They added a bit of humor and a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously I question the reviewer s statement that we never truly know Lydia I felt that I knew her in that I experienced her growth from a girl into a mature woman, finding her way through grief and sadness Ultimately, the nursing job allowed her to reach beyond herself to help others and to find love again I also liked the way the author juxtaposed her story with the development of QD Soda I didn t like QD Soda, which was Goldberg s point I had a very bad cold while reading this book and have to admit that I worried some about my health while reading the passages about the flu From Publishers Weekly 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 commentary by 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. I thought this was absolutely charming The writing was intelligent and had depth, yet wasn t too flowery The plot went quietly for a while, and then things started to come together at the end I enjoyed hearing the comments of those who had passed, as they were fiesty and very human Notice, we never heard Lydia s comments I also enjoyed how the historical background made dry facts come alive. I wish I could give this book a better review, as I wanted to like it But the story was too slow to start, the device of having the dead speak to the reader in margin notes was ultimately distracting and did not add to the narrative, the interweaved story told of QD soda and the meandering of its founder felt forced, and the main character remained remote and unknown. I was lukewarm for Myla Goldberg s first novel and the same was true for her second It s not that she s bad at writing It s that something about the form of her novels really rubs me the wrong way This one worked well when it was actually being a novel But all the little extra scenes that left the narrative were distracting and didn t add much Also the dead serving as a peanut gallery of sorts, always tossing in their two cents on what actually happened, similarly falls flat It s a shame because, as I said, she s not bad at writing Just maybe not at putting novels together Also, the audiobook version of this is dreadful Goldberg reads herself and she is just fine during the normal novel sections But the extra bits are strange, the additional readers and voices are strange, and all the background noises and music are super annoying. This book spent a number of years hovering near the top of my reading list, but it kept getting bumped by other books until finally I just borrowed it from the library even though I was reading something else For some reason, I thought this book would be about Lydia and Henry and the Remedy during the 1918 flu epidemic, but not very far into the book it became obvious that the book would not be about that at all At first, I was disappointed, but the unexpected book was very good, engrossing, and quite a fast read.Some people have found the marginal notes distracting, but they re quite easy to deal with after a few pages The chapters, distinct yet unnumbered, each end with fragmentary content letters, news articles, undefined conversations these can make the story seem fragmented, but the main narrative remains strictly chronological and uncomplicated These other fragments give historical context or, in some cases, information that becomes relevant as the reader continues.There is a lot dreadful withing its covers, but the book is not one of despair, neither is it graphic The book is about loss and memory, and to a lesser or not degree, about how small choices carry larger repercussions.I know this book isn t for everyone, and yet, I can t quite see how that could be true. This may be a two and a half stars for me Goldberg can write, for sure, and she s crafted an interesting, evolving young woman in Lydia The details about Southie seem true to me there are vivid scenes of an immigrant s life and Lydia s crossing to Washington Street where she wears a shirtwaist and works with other girls in a thriving department store The scene of the party on the landing just before her brother leaves for WWI is convincing and lively Also, the story of Gallups Island where the government used volunteers in attempts at developing a vaccine for the raging 1918 epidemic well, that s a story on it s own, and one I was unfamiliar with The problem with this short novel is it attempts to do than it can As others have noted, the margin notes don t work They are not all by dead people, and after a while I couldn t understand how they added to the narrative, so I gave up reading them and stuck with Lydia The whole Wickett s Remedy story line had promise in the beginning this was the age of American hucksterism, nostrums, and powders but Goldberg killed off Wickett and the continuing plot line with QD Soda was as much of a mess and distraction as the marginalia So, there I liked the character of Lydia, Goldberg s writing, and the history. Lost this book with about 30 pages left to read agh Found my book 3.5 stars I think my Boston friends would like it. This novel tells the story of Lydia, who longs to experience of the world than the Southie neighborhood of Boston She gets a job in a department store across the river, where she eventually meets and marries Henry Wickett, an odd man who has an idea of how to cure people And so Wickett s Remedy is born This is a novel about the Spanish influenza epidemic that hit the United States during the First World War, and about a young woman who is determined to do what she can to help care for influenza patients despite her lack of medical training Lydia is a fantastic character to follow as she works to adapt to whatever circumstances she finds herself in and the story is superbly researched Goldberg also plays with the format of the novel, adding sidenotes where various characters comment on the events taking place, as well as articles, vignettes and even a secondary storyline taking place at the end of each chapter Goldberg s writing is very good and the way she plays with structure fits well with the novel as a whole I look forward to reading by her. I grabbed this because I liked Bee Season well enough and it cost 3 and I had nothing to read I was well rewarded for my 3 gamble One thing that made the book extra resonant with me was that I started reading it just before I got a bad head cold, so the whole time I was reading about the Spanish Influenza outbreak, I was sick as well It was weird I m not recommending contracting the flu before you read, though.This novel isn t structured like most others Goldberg uses margin notes to correct misremembrances real word don t know don t care you know what i mean of the protagonist The secondary plot is woven in through newspaper articles and other ephemera Part of the enjoyment of reading the book is figuring out where all the secondary information fits in with the main story it s very satisfying when you get it.One reason I liked Bee Season was the word choice and turn of phrase Goldberg has such a way with, and this book retained that quality.
Myla Goldberg is the bestselling author of Bee Season, Wickett s Remedy, and The False Friendas well as a children s book, Catching the Moon.
- 326 pages
- Wickett's Remedy
- Myla Goldberg
- 12 August 2018 Myla Goldberg