The Woman with the Cure

Books on Tape. Feb. 2023. 12:02 hrs. ISBN 9780593675601. $95. F
Cullen’s (The Sisters of Summit Avenue) latest historical novel recounts the long search for a polio vaccine during the 1940s and 1950s. The titular woman is based on the real-life Dr. Dorothy Horstmann, a scientist whose revolutionary work made way for the polio vaccine. Horstmann struggles to get jobs, recognition, and funding in what was seen as a man’s realm. As doctors Sabin and Salk compete in their labs to find a cure, and others dare to administer untested vaccines to humans, Horstmann discovers how polio travels through the blood. Though she longs for a “normal” life with her husband and children, her passion for her work propels her forward. Cullen researched the medical, clinical, and ethical aspects of creating the polio vaccine, as well as the social impacts that polio had. Hillary Huber narrates with emotion, providing a wide variety of voices. She poignantly captures the fear and concern of parents for their children and the suffering of those who contracted polio before the vaccine.
VERDICT An engrossing and inspiring novel about the life of a brilliant scientific pioneer. Those interested in midcentury medical accomplishments will be captivated.
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