Friday 9 December 2022

The End of October

Finished December 2
The End of October by Lawrence Wright

I started reading this novel in March 2020, but it felt too close to what was happening in the world at that time, so I put it down and moved on to another book. I decided to tackle it again, and it still felt eerily real to me, with so many aspects of the pandemic within its pages relatable to the real-life pandemic. But this time I kept reading, because I truly wanted to know what would happen to Dr. Henry Parsons, his wife Jill and their children Helen and Teddy. 
Henry is a microbiologist working at the CDC and for the WHO. When an outbreak occurs in Indonesia, he travels there on behalf of WHO to investigate. 
The book takes us through scary moments, when Henry first realizes the virulence of the outbreak and then when he realizes that he has lost the moment to contain it. Henry is a dedicated scientist, using his skills to help figure out what he can. Like our pandemic, things are constantly happening that change the situation, and adjustments are constantly being made. 
Also, like our pandemic, authorities don't always give all the information they have, and aren't always clear to the public of the risks and the real numbers affected. 
The side of the book with Henry's family personalizes it more. Jill is a school teacher, worried about her kids in the classroom, but also about her kids at home. With limited access to be able to communicate with Henry, she is forced to make decisions with limited information. She second guesses herself. 
I found the character of Helen the most interesting as she developed. She is in her teens, and is forced to deal with very adult situations. She is scared and very brave. I really liked her.
There are many loose ends here, as there are in real life. We don't know what happens to the Saudi prince that Henry worked so closely with, and the end of the book doesn't tie everything up. But this feels real, and so many of the issues that arise are real: foreign diplomacy, threats of war, suspicion that the virus is manmade, climate change, countries taking advantage of weaknesses to attack other countries, and interruptions to communications and trade. This was still a difficult read, as so many of the issues are real for us now, but it is one that will keep you gripped to the book.  

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