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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 21, 2005

Fiction Writer Myla Goldberg Reads 'Live From Prairie Lights' Oct. 3

Fiction writer Myla Goldberg, whose quirky "Bee Season" became a book club favorite, will read from her new historical novel, "Wickett's Remedy," at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by WSUI's Julie Englander, will be a free event in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

"Wickett's Remedy" depicts early 20th-century life in Boston during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, which caused more deaths than all the battles of World War I. "I felt a lot of internal pressure to take risks and write something new," the self-confessed "disease nerd" told the Village Voice. "Writing is the reason I'm alive, basically. There's no reason to tell the same story over and over."

A preview in Publishers Weekly explains that the novel "follows the shifting fortunes of a young Irish-American woman. Raised in tough turn-of-the-century South Boston, Lydia Kilkenny works as a shopgirl at a fancy downtown department store, where she meets shy, hypochondriacal medical student Henry Wickett. After a brief courtship, the two marry (Henry down, Lydia decidedly up) in 1914. Henry quits school to promote his eponymous remedy, whose putative healing powers have less to do with the tasty brew that Lydia concocts than with the personal letters that Henry pens to each buyer.

"After failing to pass the army physical as the United States enters World War I, Henry quickly, dramatically dies of influenza, and Lydia returns to Southie, where she watches friends, neighbors and her beloved brother die in the 1918 epidemic. A flu study that employs human subjects is being conducted on Boston Harbor's Gallups Island; lonely Lydia signs on as a nurse's assistant, and there finds a smidgen of hope and a chance at a happier future."

Critic Joanne Wilkinson wrote for the American Library Association's Booklist, "Goldberg expertly interweaves her narrative with newspaper articles, a company newsletter, and personal letters, all of which richly capture the historical period, including its intractable class divisions and its strange mix of idealism and hucksterism. Her most intriguing device, however, is a Greek chorus (set in the page margins) of the voices of the dead, which testily comment on the narrative, ingeniously pointing out the subjectivity of memory."

Goldberg attended Oberlin College and taught English in Prague before settling in Brooklyn. Her short stories have appeared in the anthology, "Virgin Fiction," as well as in the literary journals Eclectic Literary Forum and American Writing. She also plays the banjo.

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