Book Review: The Woman With The Cure

*This is another review I did for the February edition of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of The Historical Novel Society.

In 1940s and 1950s America, polio is destroying lives, causing paralysis and death, especially to children.  Some of the world’s best researchers are racing to find a cure and the scientific glory that comes with that.  This is the story of one of those researchers, who happens to be a woman.  Dorothy Horstmann, unlike the others, is not concerned with fame or glory.  She is an epidemiologist who just wants to find a cure.  Her race to prove that the polio virus exists in the blood will be an important step in finding that cure.

Told from the points of view of Dorothy and other underappreciated women in this fight, such as a nurse, a secretary, a mother, and a wife, this novel looks at Dorothy’s efforts in a unique way.  The way the top male scientists are portrayed is shocking, as many are not only looking for a cure, but for money and celebrity.  The opportunity to follow Dorothy’s work and her travels to various polio hotspots is fascinating.  Dorothy herself is such an intriguing study.  She truly wants a cure and knows as a woman she is not going to get accolades anyway.  Her fight to be heard in a career field that dismissed women at that time is inspiring.  The inside look at all of the science and politics involved in developing a vaccine is still relevant in the present time. This is a well-written, captivating look at a woman who would help find a polio vaccine and would eventually be the first tenured female professor at the Yale School of Medicine.  Fans of science, history, and women’s fiction will love this fictional look at a real-life, underappreciated figure in medical and scientific history.

My review is 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on sites with no half-star option.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via The Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.


Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is the bestselling author of The Sisters of Summit Avenue, Twain’s End, and Mrs. Poe, which was named an NPR 2013 Great Read and an Indie Next List selection. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, their dog, and two unscrupulous cats.



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