The Woman With the Cure

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Modern Age

The Woman With the Cure
Author: Cullen, Lynn
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1940-1963
Geographic Area: North America
Country: United States
Topics: Women in Science, Vaccines
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult, Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2023

Modern Age > American History

"Huge applause... women have always been in science—despite those who would pretend otherwise.” --Bonnie Garmus, New York Times bestselling author of Lessons in Chemistry

She gave up everything — and changed the world.

A riveting novel based on the true story of the woman who stopped a pandemic, from the bestselling author of Mrs. Poe.

In 1940s and ’50s America, polio is as dreaded as the atomic bomb. No one’s life is untouched by this disease that kills or paralyzes its victims, particularly children. Outbreaks of the virus across the country regularly put American cities in lockdown. Some of the world’s best minds are engaged in the race to find a vaccine. The man who succeeds will be a god.

But Dorothy Horstmann is not focused on beating her colleagues to the vaccine. She just wants the world to have a cure. Applying the same determination that lifted her from a humble background as the daughter of immigrants, to becoming a doctor –often the only woman in the room--she hunts down the monster where it lurks: in the blood.

This discovery of hers, and an error by a competitor, catapults her closest colleague to a lead in the race. When his chance to win comes on a worldwide scale, she is asked to sink or validate his vaccine—and to decide what is forgivable, and how much should be sacrificed, in pursuit of the cure.

Emily's Review

This was such a fascinating read. I hadn't known much about the polio vaccine, except that it existed and in the 50s, polio was eradicated. This riveting historical fiction tells the story of how that vaccine came into being. I had no idea that so many women played a huge part in studying polio and finding a cure. I will never understand why this sort of thing isn't common knowledge, but here we are.

Dorothy Horstmann is a doctor and she wants nothing more than to dedicate her life to the eradication of polio. And dedicate she did - Dr. Horstmann gave her life to her work. I loved Dorothy as a character, even more so knowing she was a real person. It's so satisfying to read about a woman who broke barriers and shattered ceilings to become prominent in her field.

I love reading about scientific topics in historical fiction and this book was very well done. I loved getting to know these characters, and seeing how each of them worked towards the breakthrough of creating a vaccine for polio.

This is historical fiction at its finest, highly recommend!

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