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The Woman with the Cure by Lynn Cullen: A Book Review

The Woman with the Cure

Author: Lynn Cullen

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: February 21, 2023

Pages: 430

Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: 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.


     My Review: Dr. Dorothy M. Horstmann was an epidemiologist who contributed to the polio vaccine. The Woman with the Cure attempts to shed light on this little known woman who helped pave the way for great endeavors. The polio outbreak has spread throughout the country and has put America into lockdown. It had paralyzed and killed its victims, in particular children. Dorothy wishes to find a cure to heal these victims. She becomes a participant in the pursuit of a vaccine. However, Dorothy learns that she must make sacrifices in order to find a cure.

     I had never heard of Dr. Dorothy M. Horstmann before. Thus, I was eager to learn about her story. However, Dorothy was a flat character. She felt emotionally distant, and I did not feel connected to her anyway. I think this book should have been told in first person rather than third. Instead, I am told of her emotions rather than showing her emotions on the page. Therefore, she was not an engaging character. Still, I admired her compassion and her willingness to help others. I wished she was a better written character because she seemed like an intelligent and good person.

     Overall, this novel is about ambitions, sacrifices, and choices. The other characters, especially the men, seemed to be very one-dimensional. The love triangle was underwhelming. Despite these flaws, I did like Mrs. Cullen's writing style as well as the setting that Dorothy has visited. I also like how even though the novel was set in the 1940s and 1950s, it was very reminiscent of today with COVID-19 pandemic. The Woman with the Cure illuminates the life of a significant but largely overlooked woman! It has inspired me to do more research on her! I recommend this novel for fans of The Only Woman in the Room, The Invincible Miss Cust, and Half Life!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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