Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Flu Pandemic

With the recent World Health Organization announcement the the N1H1 flu virus is now and epidemic it seems only appropriate for me to introduce you to "Winnie's War." Walker & Company sent me this unassuming book to review about a month before flu panic spread through our media. I decided to read it shortly after the first flu case was reported in the U.S. I didn't expect much, but I could have for it was an excellent read.

"Winnie's War"
By Jenny Moss
For ages 8 – 16
Winnie is a confident rambunctious 13-year-old girl in the small town of Coward Creek, Texas. The year is 1919, young Americans are going to Europe to fight in WWI, and the memory of a catastrophic hurricane that swept through Galveston in 1900 is still etched on everyone's minds. Then the flu begins to spread along with rumors of treatments and conspiracy theories as to it's cause. Tensions rise and so do the emotions. 

Winnie's father makes coffins so she is face to face with death and has to confront the flu epidemic every day. As the story progresses she has to face it head on. Although the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919 is the backdrop for this story, "Winnie's War" is really about relationships, strength and the acceptance of life and it's many facets. 

The turbulent relationship between mother daughter and grandmother is very interesting. As Winnie strives to uncover the reasons for her mother not being very "motherly' she finds a sad tortured soul that could never "let the good and the sad live side by side." Winnie struggles to accept everything around her, including a new love and marry it into a harmonious life. 

Jenny Moss does a fantastic job of handling this morose subject matter with a deftly romantic hand. The tragic losses and emotional scenes will bring tears to your eyes without being gratuitous or overly dramatic. Then, like a rain storm they pass and the sun comes out again. 

I highly recommend this novel. The meaningful relationships, beautiful moments, and emotional losses really bring home how the flu epidemic shaped the landscape in the U.S. A few author's notes in the end papers gives more factual information about the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919 and how it affected major cities as well as small towns.