At first, the reports from out East didn’t bother too many people in Oregon. After all, Pennsylvania and New York seemed almost a world away. It seemed that way to Cleo, who was too busy trying to figure out what she should do with her life. After all, she couldn’t just hang around her brother Jack’s house forever, could she? But day after day, she felt no passion that inspired her.
When Jack and his wife, Lucy, go away on an anniversary trip to San Francisco, Cleo is forced to go stay at her school as a boarding student. Oh, the misery of living at the school full time. For the seventeen year old, nothing seems worse.
Until a trainload of soldiers from the east arrives, and the dreaded Spanish Flu is no longer just a problem to be dealt with in the east; now it is on Cleo’s doorstep. Quickly the city of Portland changes. Cleo’s school closes and Cleo, in a quick and crazy decision, decides to leave the school and go home by herself. There in the quiet of her home, she sees an ad placed by the local Red Cross, asking for help with the sick. Cleo, not even quite knowing why herself, goes to see what she can do to help.
A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier looks at a time in our history where a flu so devastating struck so many millions around the world. It was made more deadly by the fact it was happening during World War I, and the contagion spread throughout the world. Cleo, like so many of her time, had to watch the strong and healthy brought low by this terrible flu, and wonder, if she was next.
Recommended for anyone interested in the early nineteen hundreds, World War I, and historical fiction in general. For grades 6 and up.