A hundred years ago in a remote corner of southwestern Kansas, an extraordinary influenza invades, a new strain that mutates and grows 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 World War I when soldiers carried the virus to army training camps and the battlefields.
In winter of 1918, Dr. Lorne Miller knows the season’s influenza is different. Confounded by unusual symptoms and rapid deaths, Miller makes a choice he will regret the rest of his life—putting duty to another patient over his wife, who dies in the care of their daughter Helen. Alternately narrated by Lorne, seeking redemption and a vaccination, and Helen who joins the army as a nurse to escape her grief and fulfill ambitions, the Millers rely on innovation, inner strength, and hope to persevere.
It is through their unique experience—battling this influenza from patient zero to its climax—readers learn about this forgotten pandemic and consider the questions of duty and faith.
Dee’s short story The Enemy Within inspired this novel-in-progress 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.