Tuesday, May 10, 2016

LAZARETTO by Diane McKinney-Whetstone

This stunning new novel from Diane McKinney - Whetstone, nationally bestselling author of Tumbling, begins in the chaotic backstreets of post–Civil War Philadelphia as a young black woman gives birth to a child fathered by her wealthy white employer. In a city riven by racial tension, the father’s transgression is unforgivable. He has already arranged to take the baby, so it falls to Sylvia, the midwife’s teenage apprentice, to tell Meda that her child is dead—a lie that will define the course of both women’s lives. A devastated Meda dedicates herself to working in an orphanage and becomes a surrogate mother to two white boys; while Sylvia, fueled by her guilt, throws herself into her nursing studies and finds a post at the Lazaretto, the country’s first quarantine hospital, situated near the Delaware River, just south of Philadelphia. The Lazaretto is a crucible of life and death; sick passengers and corpses are quarantined here, but this is also the place where immigrants take their first steps toward the American dream. The live-in staff are mostly black Philadelphians, and when two of them arrange to marry, the city’s black community prepares for a party on its grounds. But the celebration is plunged into chaos when gunshots ring out across the river. As Sylvia races to save the victim, the fates of Meda’s beloved orphans also converge on the Lazaretto. Long ago, one “brother” committed an unthinkable act to protect the other, sparking a chain of events that now puts the Lazaretto on lockdown. Here conflicts escalate, lies collapse, and secrets begin to surface; like dead men rising, past sins cannot be contained.
In the aftermath of the American civil war, on the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, two women whose paths cross briefly, are inadvertently linked for years. At the start of the story, a young black woman named Meda is toiling to give birth. The midwife's assistant Sylvia is shocked when the baby's father, takes the baby away and orders her to tell Meda the was stillborn. The secret will haunt Sylvia for the rest of her life. As a means to ease her grief, Meda bonds with two boys, Linc and Bram who reside at a nearby orphanage.
Told through these women's points of view, I was treated to a lush story of dark secrets, hardship, and abounding love. The larger than life characters drew me into the story, each adding a different aspect to this multi-layered story. Lovely prose, wonderfully vivid descriptions, and a darn good yarn made me flip the pages at a furious pace. A definite 5 star read! A great book for book clubs too!
Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

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