Year Of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Anna can only imagine what it must be like to have the weight of the whole village upon his shoulders, as does Michael Mompellion, the village vicar. It is he who has carried the prayers, the hopes and dreams as well as the trauma of those who have lived – and died – among them. That is not to say that Anna has not been there as well. Anna, and Michael’s wife, Elinor, who as the time passed, became more of friend and less of an employer to Anna, have nursed so many of the villagers, caring for them and comforting them. But what they saw together, what they experienced, no one should ever have to. And so Anna understands his wrath toward the wealthy family the Bradfords, on their return, after deserting their village when so many relied upon them. What happened after that, however, she did not expect…

Here is another hard and yet utterly addictive novel by Geraldine Brooks. The time is the 1660’s, in a tiny village in the UK where the Plague has been carried into the town by a kindly and unwitting messenger. After he takes ill and gives warning to burn all of his possessions – a warning that goes unheeded – the disease creeps into the homes of those around him and ravages the village over time.

What we see, however, is all too familiar. We see it bring out the best in some and the worst in others. We see a 1600’s version of misinformation and we see people grasping at untruths because they are desperate and have a deep-seated need to blame someone or something for their misery and pain.

Many may feel that this is too soon after our own plague, but it does feel different. To me it highlights our privilege of scientific advancement and evidence-based medicine. It highlights the knowledge we’ve gained over these centuries and the ability to study a new pathogen with logic and with precision- to develop treatments and vaccines to protect ourselves and to prevent the worst outcomes at lightening speed. On the other hand, and most tragically, our most recent plague has also brought to light the continued distrust and misinformation that runs rampant in our communities as well. The cynical and damaging anti-vaccine misinformation that has been circulated by darker forces in our country via social media and Fox News has stirred just as much unrest and backlash toward legitimate science as did the believers in the witches and magical incantations of the 1600’s. (And just like in those times, the motivation is the same: money.)

This is a powerful and elegantly written novel, deeply researched and exquisitely presented. If you have the capacity to read it, it is absolutely worthwhile. I’d call it a MUST READ, if you are able.







Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Jarret, an enslaved Black boy in the South, may be small, but he knows his horses and he knows how their lineage matters. This is what his father has taught him and what he recites with him each night as they sit on their porch on warm, Southern nights. When Jarret witnesses the birth of his newest beauty, Darley, he and the horse form a bond that will last for decades.

Fast forward to 2019, and we meet Jess, who has found herself working at the Smithsonian, far from her home in Australia. From a young age, Jess has been fascinated with the bone structures of animals, and she is now working to prepare them for analysis and study at one of the world’s most venerable American institutions. It is here where her path crosses with Theo, an art history graduate student at Georgetown, writing his thesis and researching articles for a magazine for the same institution. When their research brings them together, they find that there is more that they share than their interest in a horse that lived a very long time ago.

This is one of those novels that you yearn to keep reading to know what will happen, but you also don’t want to keep reading because you don’t want it to end.

There is so much that has been packed into this extensively-researched novel that there is so much to unpack. First, I learned so much about horses and horse racing. Not familiar with this world, I learned about the breeding of the horses, how their treatment and mistreatment has evolved, and how important their anatomy is to how effectively they can race. There is a love of animals that is expressed throughout this novel that I share quite deeply.

The story also depicts racism, as it existed during the 1800’s, when slavery was still legal in this country, and as it still very much exists today. We see how Jarret is treated as an enslaved young man, which varies depending on who has ownership of him (and what they believe they can get from him). We cannot help but compare him to how Theo, our graduate student at Georgetown, is treated in current day, where he experiences almost daily comments, micro-aggressions (which are often not very “micro” at all). Both men are highly intelligent, experts in their fields, and are respected – but over and over again, encounter obstacles purely because of the color of their skin.

But don’t be fooled – the learning is all so easy. It comes through a beautiful story, with beloved characters and a heartfelt and moving plot. And even if you’ve never been on a horse or never watched one race, you will fall in love with Lexington (nee Darley)!

This is 100% a MUST READ! Loved it!