The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.



Lazaretto (B) by Diane McKinney-Whetstone is a powerful story clearly documenting post civil war life in Philadelphia.

Meda, a young black girl gives birth to a baby boy. He is the son of her white employer. She is told that her child has “succumb”. The midwife in training who has just delivered her first baby defies protocol and convinces the wealthy guilt-ridden father that she will get the baby to an orphanage. It is their secret.

The baby boy is one of two infants at the orphanage that night. The boys are raised as brothers and a life long bond is formed that will never be broken. In the beginning the staff at the orphanage is nurturing and loving. Things begin to go terribly wrong for the boys when an abusive evil man takes over the running of the orphanage.

What transpires throughout this powerful book mirrors all the prejudices that existed post civil war. Black people, especially women, were beginning to advance their lives by becoming midwives and nurses. They struggled to attain simple things, always being careful not to cross the “invisible” class lines.

The author does a good job here. The story moves along well with characters that are engaging and authentic. As the story shifts from downtown Philadelphia to Lazaretto (an immigration clearing center) the loose ends of Part I are fully realized. There were moments when there seemed to be too many characters. Remembering who was attached to who became a bit of challenge. All in all, I would definitely recommend giving this one a read. It is one of the better historical fiction novels recently written.





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