Published: November 1, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Set in the majestic yet untamed Adirondack Mountains of New York more than a century ago, an extraordinary story unfolds about a little known town called Saranac Lake. The town is home to a man with a disease known as consumption, white plague, or as some called it, the red death. It is here that Doctor Edward Livingston Trudeau finds a hopeful cure for tuberculosis in the form of open air.
Trudeau’s patients vary in age, gender, class, and race, but they have one thing in common. They must all choose to embrace life, even in the face of death, if they wish to heal at the Sanitarium.
Christine, a woman at the helm of her family, has already lost two children to the dreaded plague. But when her daughter, Collette, contracts the disease, she is determined to keep her alive. Venturing into unknown territory, Christine risks her own health and that of her unborn child, as well as her marriage, to help her daughter seek a cure that to many is absurd. Christine embarks upon a life-changing journey as she moves from caregiver to patient. In the face of adversity she must find the courage to sustain herself.
When Lena, a factory worker and mother of three, begins coughing up blood she is faced with a decision no mother wants to make. She either stays with her family and risks her own death, or leaves her loved ones behind while she goes off in hope of a cure at the Sans.
Big Joe, once a strong man for a traveling circus, seeks a quiet place to live out his final days in hiding. When he is sent to the Sanitarium, he is terrified to learn he will be housed with fellow circus performers for he is a hunted man. Gaunt and thin, he can only hope no one from his past recognizes him in his current state.
Little Amy, a six year old child, must care for her entire family of seven, all whom are afflicted with different forms of plague. When she is diagnosed with a very rare form herself, she is sent to the Sanitarium and put under the care of Dr. Trudeau. Alone and afraid, Amy faces her fears and allows herself to dream of a future.
With a cast of characters so vivid, One Thousand Porches is a heart warming and engaging story that will instill hope and faith in even the most pessimistic reader.
Julie Dewey generously sent me an electronic copy of this book after I reviewed her previous novel, Forgetting Tabitha. In that review, I had expressed my concern about the editing of the book--that there were so many grammatical and historical errors. While these do still appear in One Thousand Porches, there are far fewer of them.
However, I had other issues with this book. The book has several different narrators and, frankly, I'm not sure why that is. I felt that this constantly switching voice was keeping me from really getting into this book. I wish she had streamlined things more and stuck to one or two story lines. If she wanted to use multiple points of view, I wish she had chosen fewer characters--such as just Christine and Colette. As it was, it was sometimes confusing to switch between the characters and I had to continually remind myself who was speaking. I also felt that some of the characters didn't need their own sections. Lena, for example, only really appears in the chapters she tells and then disappears. Big Joe really only needed to be a character in Christine's narration as his chapters felt superfluous.
Dewey includes a great deal of medical information, which I appreciated. I know very little about tuberculosis or how it was treated in the 19th century. However, I wish she had massaged these sections more into the book. As it is written, it seems like all of a sudden the book turns into a medical text for a few pages and then reverts back to being a novel.
There were parts of the story that I found hard to believe--most notably Christine's relationship with her first husband and Amy's relationship with Daniel. While I don't question either relationship, I do believe how they unfolded were unrealistic, especially in the former case. As for Amy and Daniel, it just seemed too quick and easy.
While this book was not for me, I appreciate Dewey's efforts to write about this chapter in our history--and I did learn quite a bit. I think that Dewey is developing into a good writer and I do plan to read any future book that she writes.
I was given an electronic copy of this book by the author, without an request for a review. I received no compensation for this post and all opinions are mine and mine alone.