Review of Jacqueline Druga-Johnson’s “The Flu”
The Flu tells the tale of a pandemic flu attack on the world, tracing its origin at a remote Alaskan scientific outpost to where it rapidly spreads across the globe, though the story more specifically zeroes in on the United States, and even more particularly on a small town in northeast Ohio, Lodi, which is not tremendously far from Cleveland. The story focuses on Mick, the Sheriff in town and his surrogate family, which consists of the woman he is secretly dating, Dylan, and her three sons. Sam, Dylan’s husband, who she is divorcing, is attempting to reconcile with her at the same time. The lives of this family come into focus as Lodi goes under the magnifying glass because of the return of one of the world’s most renowned virologists, Lars Rayburn, who lives in Lodi one month out of the year, spending the rest of his time studying strains of the flu and other plagues in Madagascar. As this flu, which has a death rate up around 90%, plows across the country and the globe, Lars decides that with the help of the government that he will shut off Lodi and attempt to create a safe haven away from the flu, one where he will be prepared to deal with it when it comes, and will do his best to block it off from ever hitting the town.
The book devotes a goodly amount of early pages on the spread of the flu, and as is the case throughout this tale, we are given the personal stories of those who are exposed to it and are dealing with the pain and anguish it brings. The Flu seems like a tidal wave, smashing into everything, giving it a sense of inevitability. Some survive, though most do not-at least not until it surrounds Lodi. The harsh reality is that the best that seems can be done is to wait until this plague dies out on its own-it spreads, it infects, it kills, and then the flu dissipates, leaving behind approximately 5% of the former population. The author does do a good job of crafting characters that you grow attached to, and can appreciate-the normal, everyday people of the town of Lodi, including the main characters who are just trying to survive and keep the town safe. I think the strongest, most potent parts of this story were when these people were interacting with each other and trying to go on with their lives despite everything happening around them. These two main components of this tale-the inevitability of the flu and the development of characters we care about-bring things to a head in the homestretch of the book.
I enjoyed this tale, and feel that the author did a bang up job crafting a plausible pandemic scenario and also created characters that you care about and are hoping manage to survive, though you suspect from the beginning that it is unlikely that all of them will survive, and there will be plenty of heartbreak. As far as issues I had with the story, I would say a minor one was some of the typos and editing issues, though they were ones I could certainly live with. If I were to state that I had a real issue with things, it wouldn’t be something that I could exactly pinpoint in the story itself. I think it would be more along the lines of the pacing. As I said, the flu moves with a certain amount of inevitability-which means that it seemed that the surprises in this story were few and far between for me-things happen because the flu is going to bulldoze everything in its pathway, and it does so at a relatively slow pace. The story, in turn, moves at that pace as well, taking about half its pages to really move it along to where it started to get really interesting for me. I can understand and appreciate all that came in the first half of the book, but again, I would have been happier with a faster pace up to that point. Even with that said, I give credit where credit is due, and the author deserves a lot for crafting a realistic and intriguing pandemic tale that had characters inhabiting the story that felt real and compelling, which, in the end, made the build up well worth it.
The Flu can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Flu-Jacqueline-Druga-Johnston/dp/1885093489/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329959697&sr=8-1