Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
This book is the most fun example of why book clubs are great. I would never have heard of Get Well Soon if it hadn’t been selected for book club and I absolutely loved it – yay for book clubs! Each chapter in this book discusses one plague Wright highlights – from leprosy to syphilis to Spanish flu to polio, and many others – and the book was so incredibly entertaining as well as informative.
Wright delves deep into each plague and discusses the causes, the missteps, the failed treatments, and eventual cures. She does a thing where she highlights the heroes in each story as well as call attention to those who were less than heroic. She sheds light on how certain diseases could have been prevented, or at least the massive spread of said diseases could have been stopped, and goes into the implications of cures for future potential plagues down the road. She does all of this with the most hilarious, snarky, witty sense of humor and I absolutely LOVED it. Think Mary Roach or Sarah Vowell – Jennifer Wright is doing a similar thing here to what those equally hilarious women do in their books.
There are plenty of serious moments in the midst of the jokes, in addition to the straight up information that Wright provides. She talks a little about autism and the incredibly damaging belief that vaccines have a hand in causing it – she goes into explicit detail about why that theory came to be and dispels it swiftly and with force. It’s pretty awesome. She also discusses polio and how incredible it was that Salk came up with the vaccine he did, and how others were trying to do the same thing but were looking to profit from it, whereas Salk only wanted to cure a disease (which he did) and spread the cure to as many people, no matter their socioeconomic background, as humanly possible (which he did). There’s also a discussion about AIDS and how the initial treatment of AIDS victims in this country was not unlike the abhorrent ways in which people with diseases hundreds of years ago were treated and wow, does she go there. It is smart and effective and she makes some really great points. I love when an author can be this informative, interesting, make you think, AND entertaining all at the same time.
Get Well Soon is a total keeper. I loved it.