Cleo Barry is seventeen and living in Portland. Her parents died when she was young in a terrible carriage accident. Her brother Jackson and his wife Lucy became her guardians. Jackson and Lucy are away on holiday, leaving Cleo safely at her school. Then the Spanish Influenza comes to Portland. Theaters, churches and schools are all closed. Cleo decides she doesn’t want to stay at school and goes home to her empty house believing Jackson or the housekeeper will be back any day. She sees an advertisement asking for volunteers for the Red Cross and decides to be useful. Cleo volunteers and starts going door to door looking for the sick and the dying. She is exposed to things she has never seen before and she makes great new friends. The few days turn to weeks as Jackson and Lucy are unable to come home. Even though the work is horrible and taxing, Cleo sticks with it day after day. Even after she sees friends die from the flu, she still doesn’t quit. She meets a young man, Edmund, a doctor in training who was injured in Europe. They learn to depend on each other and come to be more than friends.
This was an excellent book. Lucier did a great job researching the Spanish Flu and what happened in Portland when it struck. I thought Cleo was a great heroine. She isn’t always strong, but she always goes on. Even when it is disgusting or heartbreaking, she works through it goes back to work. This was a very fast read and I never really wanted to put it down.
I received this book from Netgalley.