The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid

Knopf. Jun. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780593320723. $28. SOC SCI
In this latest work, best-selling author Wright (The Looming Tower) looks back on a nearly unprecedented period of U.S. history: the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting from the discovery of the virus in China in early 2020, and leading up to the final days of the Trump administration in 2021, Wright surveys one momentous year. Delving into economic, social, biological, racial, and political aspects of the pandemic, this is an overarching behind-the-scenes look at the pandemic’s effects on individual lives. Wright cuts through misinformation to present nearly every aspect of the year 2020, including the biological breakthroughs of vaccines, personal tragedies, and collective trauma. All is thoroughly discussed with empathy and compassion. Also included are interviews with staff of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and personal reports from families across the country (from New York to Tulsa to New Orleans) whose lives were impacted by the pandemic.
VERDICT While there are already several other books about COVID-19 and its sociological impact on the United States, this wide-ranging yet deeply personal account is a great starting point. At times infuriating, unbelievable, heartbreaking, and even witty, Wright’s narrative is sorely needed.
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