Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.
I came to this book by an NPR article discussing pandemic lit. It's a fictionalized tale of the real English town that, struck by plague in 1665, chose to sacrifice themselves by quarantining the town in hopes of preventing the spread of disease to their neighbors.
At least, that's the framework for the story, but the real story is its characters and how they respond to the crisis, how they endure or find strength or break as they lose their neighbors and loved ones. How for some, it's business and opportunism as usual as they use legal means to take a valuable mine from an orphaned child because her dead father can no longer work it or defend it, or price-gouging for grave-digging services when the church graveyard is full and there is a shortage of able-bodied men. How the taverns are always full and the fearful mob inevitably looks for witches to burn.
But it's also the story of neighbors looking out for each other, of a mother rising above the grief of her lost children to care for the dying and deliver the new babies when the doctors flee the town, of the religious leaders look past their fundamental differences to provide leadership to people in need, how a pastor and his wife work tirelessly to minister to the whole town, good or evil of spirit, deserving and undeserving.
There are some odd twists at the end that surprised and angered and disappointed me, but overall the story had me fascinated throughout.
Audiobook via Overdrive, and I strongly recommend you do NOT do this one on audio, because it's read by the author who may be a very good writer but is a terrible narrator, and yet I was so engaged with the story that even her droning voice couldn't put me off.