Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Cat Winters. New York: Amulet Books, 2013. 410 pp.
Rating: Striking

"They've closed down the city to try to keep the flue from spreading. They quarantined the soldiers sooner than the rest of us, but now it's the churches, theaters, moving picture houses, bathhouses,and dance halls—all closed."
    "Schools?" I asked with hope in my heart.
    "Closed." (15)

The year is 1918, World War I is raging, and the Spanish influenza is spreading rapidly claiming the lives of men, women, and children without prejudice. During the midst of this harrowing time, sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black's life is turned upside down. She finds herself on a germ-packed train fleeing her beloved Oregon home—the only home she's ever known—to her aunt in San Diego, California after her German father is accused and arrested for treason. Mary Shelley arrives in San Diego to discover her young, widowed aunt working in a shipyard, her sweetheart dead, and her image used to entice grieving individuals to spirit photography by her love's unscrupulous brother. Being a young lady of science, Mary Shelly is skeptical of the spirit world, but will her position shift when she's thrust into its mystical wonders.