The PREMONITION, Michael Lewis (2021)

A second opinion either reinforces or contradicts the first one but the important thing about it is that it offers the view of another mind.

For those who could read between the lines, the censored news out of China was terrifying. But the president insisted there was nothing to worry about.

Fortunately, we are still a nation of skeptics. Fortunately, there are those among us who study pandemics and are willing to look unflinchingly at worst-case scenarios. Michael Lewis’s taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The characters you will meet on these pages are as fascinating as they are unexpected. A thirteen-year-old girl’s science project on transmission of an airborne pathogen develops into a very grown-up model of disease control. A local public-health officer uses her worm’s-eye view to see what the CDC misses and reveals great truths about American society. A secret team of dissenting doctors, nicknamed the Wolverines, has everything necessary to fight the pandemic: brilliant backgrounds, world-class labs, prior experience with the pandemic scares of bird flu and swine flu…everything, that is, except official permission to implement their work.

Michael Lewis is not shy about calling these people heroes for their refusal to follow directives that they know to be based on misinformation and bad science. Even the internet, as crucial as it is to their exchange of ideas, poses a risk to them. They never know for sure who else might be listening in.

Heather writes
After reading Michael Lewis’s last book, “The Fifth Risk” about the dangers of having Donald Trump as president I agree with many other reviewers who will immediately read anything Lewis writes.  The TV program 60 Minutes also did an interview with the author and promoted his research for the book.  However, I warn you, The Premonition is anything but an easy read.  Even as an experienced non-fiction reader, I found that I had to make notes to keep the characters straight. 

This fascinating revelation about the American experience with Covid-19 was a challenge to unravel.  The characters were mixed up in the storyline and there are diversions that seem totally unrelated to the context until one perseveres and slogs through the section. 

This book is a totally worthwhile read, but be prepared to be confused by the acronyms (especially as a Canadian) and the interweaving to the storyline.  You will be surprised by the perseverance of the unofficial group of scientists who helped save the public from the worst ravages of Covid-19. Thank God there are people who still act as heroes! 

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