Monday, February 20, 2023

The Woman With the Cure by Lynn Cullen

First Line: Arlene would never get over the empty swimming pools.
In 1940s and '50s America, polio has the power to put cities in lockdown and strike fear in every parent's heart for the way it cruelly kills or paralyzes children. The man who finds the vaccine will be a god, but Dr. Dorothy Horstmann is focused on giving the world a cure.
Her discovery of how polio is transmitted puts a colleague into the lead in the race for a cure, and then she is asked to validate his vaccine. To do this, she must decide what is forgivable-- and how much should be sacrificed-- in pursuit of the cure.
As someone who remembers lining up in grade school for a sugar cube containing the polio vaccine but not remembering anything about the cure except the name of Jonas Salk, I looked forward to reading The Woman With the Cure

It's about time we all learned about the women scientists who played crucial roles in medicine and other fields. I certainly appreciated learning about Dr. Dorothy Horstmann, from her humble beginnings as the daughter of immigrants to highly regarded virologist and medical researcher. Reading what she had to deal with on a daily basis is more than enough to make a feminist out of any reader, and my growing impatience with the men she worked with must mean that we live in (at least slightly) more enlightened times.

Yes, the historical and medical parts of The Woman With the Cure were fascinating and kept me reading, but I found that the execution of the story made that difficult at times. The book could have used a bit more editing and tightening to make the story flow better, and what surprised me was that, although this is the type of story that should've had me totally engrossed and cheering Dorothy on, I never really felt engaged with it. So... The Woman With the Cure is an important story that deserves a better telling. However, I am glad that I now know so much more about the fight for the polio vaccine and about Dr. Dorothy Horstmann, who went on to combat rubella after polio was conquered.

The Woman With the Cure by Lynn Cullen
eISBN: 9780593438077
Berkley © 2023
eBook, 432 pages
Historical Fiction, Standalone
Rating: C-
Source: Net Galley


  1. Oh no! I'm sorry this wasn't as a good as you hoped :( (What an amazing woman she was -- I had no idea about her olre in the vaccine at all)

  2. It sounds as though this had so much promise, Cathy! I'm sorry to hear it didn't draw you in as it might have. And what a story, too! It's not something you learn about in school, and I'm glad someone is telling the stories of those women who made such a difference.

    1. So am I. It's something that's long overdue.

  3. I, too, am happy that these women's roles are now being 'discovered' and written about. I know that researching the stories have been great for authors, even the ones where there is not much to research - as in, not much is known and put down for posterity. I, too, remember the sugar cubes. I went and looked at other books by this author as I didn't recall titles. She wrote Mrs. Poe and I didn't recognize that title, but I haven't read it. I was curious. Thanks for telling us about this one!

  4. It's too bad the story didn't flow a little better because it is a very interesting time period in history. Dorothy Horstmann sounds like an amazing person.


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