A hundred years ago in a remote corner of southwestern Kansas, an extraordinary influenza invaded, a new strain that mutated and grew stronger with each attack, striking healthy adults and turning their immune systems against them. This virulent virus most likely would have run its course—never become the pandemic that killed over 50 million people—had it not coincided with the last year of the Great War when soldiers carried the virus to army training camps and the battlefields.
In winter of 1918, Dr. Lorne Miller ponders the season’s influenza. A young farm boy had knocked on his office door, his parents dying. And then two more young men unexpectedly died. Boys their age were dying in the mud on the western front of the Great War, not on the plains of Kansas. Confounded by unusual symptoms and rapid deaths, Lorne makes a choice he will regret the rest of his life. Alternately narrated by Lorne, seeking redemption and a vaccination, and his daughter Helen, who joins the army as a nurse, father and daughter rely on innovation, inner strength, and hope to persevere.
It is through their unique experience—battling this virus from patient zero to its climax—readers of this historical fiction novel learn about the influenza pandemic and consider the questions of duty and faith.
Dee’s short story The Enemy Within inspired this in-progress historical fiction novel and received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers.
Dee first became interested in the 1918 influenza pandemic during the 2009 swine flu outbreak. Today, we find 200,000 deaths alarming; she wanted to understand the devastation of 50 million dead and ensure their stories were kept alive.