Between 1918 and 1920, the Spanish influenza pandemic (which is now largely believed to have been born in Haskell County, Kansas, spreading to a nearby military base and, from there, moving on to Europe and the rest of the world as WWI was being fought) killed an estimated 30-50 million people worldwide, including nearly 675,000 Americans. It attacked anybody and everybody, not just the old, the very young, or the infirm. It could kill in a single day, or it could take days or weeks. Some recovered, many did not. This story is told through the eyes of 17-year-old Cleo, who—once her school was closed down by order of the Mayor—decided to go to some of the ad-hoc hospitals to help the Red Cross, while the rest of her family was stranded in San Francisco. In days she saw the horror of this disease spread, ultimately witnessing the terrible deaths of people she knew and even some dear friends. She grew up very, very fast, but found her strength in saving as many people as she could. I learned a lot in this quick-moving, hard-to-put-down historical novel. While it's considered YA, I think a whole spectrum of folks would be fascinated by the story." ~Jackie--Jackie is the No. 1 Bookblogger at Tattered Cover.
For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country--that's how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?
Riveting and well-researched, "A Death-Struck Year" is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?
An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting.
A Spring 2014 "Indies Introduce New Voices" selection