The Pull of the Stars

Little, Brown. Jul. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780316499019. $28. F
Set in Dublin during the 1918 pandemic, this latest from Donoghue (Akin) follows nurse Julia Power over the course of three days at a Dublin maternity ward, where patients have contracted the dreaded flu. Among a crew perpetually short-staffed and overworked, Julia is not excited when new volunteer Bridie Sweeney is thrust onto her ward. But Bridie proves a quick study, and the chemistry between the two women supports them through three difficult births: Delia, Mary, and Honor, each more graphically detailed than the last. Looming over the combined trauma of the pandemic and world war is Julia’s 30th birthday, which her shell-shocked brother Tim attempts to honor as best he can. Layered within all these story lines is the rumor that Dr. Kathleen Lynn, whom Julia depends on, is wanted for rebel activity. The question becomes, should Julia focus solely on medicine and ignore everyone else’s loyalties, or should she follow her heart?
VERDICT This female-centric story is a cross between Susan Meissner’s As Bright as Heaven and Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, with a caveat: those wary of detailed medical scenes should avoid.
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