Through narrative, authentic newspaper clippings, and fictional correspondence, the author of Bee Season offers an intimate view of the life of Lydia Kilkenny, a shop clerk and daughter of Irish immigrants in South Boston in the early 20th century.'
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 1918 begins its deadly sweep across the world, irrevocably changing
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 epidemicthrough the use of human subjects.
Meanwhile, 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 empire.
Throughout 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 lifenone more 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.
On D Street there was no need for alarm clocks: the drays, ever punctual, were an
army storming the gates of sleep. The wooden wagons were heavy and
low-riding with loud rattling wheels, their broad planks too battered
and begrimed to recall distant origins as trees. Each dray was pulled by
horses--two, four, or sometimes six per wagon--pounding down nearby
Third Street. Windows rattled and floors shook; the sound was a giant
hand shaking Lydia Kilkenny 's sleeping shoulders. Each morning she
did not awaken to the sound, but inside it. The sound of the drays came
no matter what the season. In winter it came when the sky was still
dark, the pounding hooves sharp reports against the frozen cobblestones.
In summer, perhaps because the sky was already pale with light, the
sound of the horses seemed kinder.
She knew the clattering wagons were bound for Boston proper, but...
Myla Goldberg is the author of the bestselling Bee
Season; an essay collection, Times Magpie, which explores all
her favorite places in Prague, where she lived for a year in the early nineties;
and Wicketts Remedy which grew out of her fascination with the 1918
influenza epidemic. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, cartoonist Jason
Little, and their daughter.
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