Wickett's Remedy

I also recently (well, a couple of weeks ago) finished "Wickett's Remedy,"  by Myla Goldberg, which I believe came at the recommendation of Abby. This one takes place in Boston, which was neat, and most of the action takes place before and during World War I, and follows Lydia Wickett.

I liked the main storyline in this book, which follows Lydia. As we meet her she is a young lady from Southie working at a department store in Downtown Crossing. She gets married, but her husband dies shortly thereafter. She then winds up going back to her parents, and, due to the influenza epidemic of 1918, decides to become a nurse. In the midst of the epidemic she finagles a job doing government research regarding flu transmission — the subjects are military men thrown in the brig for desertion. (The title springs from a tonic that Lydia and her husband create and that is essentially stolen by a man who turns it into a soda flavoring.)

It was a good story. What annoyed me was that a subplot about the soda company is introduced. After her husband dies, Lydia briefly deals with the tonic and the man who steals the formula, but after that we only have access to this subplot through a few letters and reprints of the company newsletter (and, inexplicably, the transcript for a tour of the bottling plant). If there's not something about the soda subplot at the end of a chapter, we get a reprinted editorial from a newspaper of the time. I didn't feel like either of these devices added anything to the story.

My feeling is that if the soda subplot was so central to the narrative, it should have been included in a less artificial way. (But really, I don't see that it was all that important at all — except for soon after her husband's death, we never see Lydia deal with the soda thing at all, except for a couple of letters she sends to the thief). I assume by including the editorials, Goldberg was trying to deepen our sense of the time period, but I think there's something to be said for actually incorporating them into the storyline, rather than just appending them to the end of the chapter. Past a certain point, I skipped straight past the soda and editorial stuff. 

Overall, I'd say this was okay. Ignoring the soda and editorial stuff, I'd say it was good and you should add it to your "check this out sometime" list. 

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