The End of October, Lawrence Wright

The medical thriller–from the Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author–Dr. Henry Parsons, an unlikely but appealing hero, races to find the origins and cure of a mysterious new killer virus as it brings the world to its knees.

Synopsis:
At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When Henry Parsons–microbiologist, epidemiologist–travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe: an infected man is on his way to join the millions of worshippers in the annual Hajj to Mecca. Now, Henry joins forces with a Saudi prince and doctor in an attempt to quarantine the entire host of pilgrims in the holy city… A Russian émigré, a woman who has risen to deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security, scrambles to mount a response to what may be an act of biowarfare… already-fraying global relations begin to snap, one by one, in the face of a pandemic… Henry’s wife Jill and their children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta… and the disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions–scientific, religious, governmental–and decimating the population. As packed with suspense as it is with the fascinating history of viral diseases, Lawrence Wright has given us a full-tilt, electrifying, one-of-a-kind thriller.

Heather says…
During this 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, it may seem a little strange to read a science fiction book about a pandemic.  Initially, I wondered if reading this book would be good for my mental health. However, I found the book to be the exact opposite.  As I was reading the novel, I found myself checking off the current pandemic history. For example, started as a small outbreak on the other side of North America– check; not initially viewed as a concern – check; monitored by the World Health Organization – check; initially started with animal transmission – check.  Following this checklist was initially very reassuring and reinforced my personal experience.

As the novel progressed, and I compared the fictional virus to Covid-19, I found myself increasingly optimistic about Covid-19.  Unlike science fiction, Covid-19 could be destroyed with soap and water, Covid-19 did not remain infectious in the room for 2 hours after an infected person had passed through.  By comparison, our Covid-19 virus has been relatively contained versus the End of October imaginary virus which was transferred during the Hajj. 

This novel was a great read.  A thrilling page-turner that was written in chapters set like short videos progressing through time. The ending was a magnificent twist.

 

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