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Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg
In Wickett's Remedy, Lydia Kilkenney is an Irish shopgirl in Boston in the early 20th century. She marries Henry Wickett, a medical student from a wealthy family, but she's surprised when he quits school and creates a mail-order health tonic for hypochondriacs called Wickett's Remedy. His new business begins to take off when the 1918 flu pandemic strikes. The world she had known is no longer recognizable as the flu takes Henry from her. Lydia gets a job as a nurse working on a experimental ward where Navy convicts volunteer to be exposed to the flu virus so doctors can study it. Meanwhile, Henry's ex-partner steals the remedy for a tonic and begins to sell it as a soft drink. Myla Goldberg (author of
Bee Season) brings to life an era and a city where survival was often just a matter of chance. Wickett's Remedy has received mixed reviews with the San Francisco Chronicle calling it "a warmhearted, unusual and intelligent consideration of a world about which few people know."