Lazaretto

Diane McKinney-Whetstone. Harper, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-212696-2
Setting her book once again in her native city of Philadelphia, Pa., McKinney-Whetstone opens her sixth novel on the eve of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Meda, a beautiful young black woman, delivers the secret child of her employer, lawyer Tom Benin (who is white), at a medical office for clandestine services. After the baby is taken from her at birth, Sylvie, an apprentice to the midwife, lies and tells Meda her infant girl has died. Bereft and ungrounded, Meda seeks consolation by serving as a wet nurse to a pair of white newborn boys at a nearby orphanage, naming them Bram and Linc after the slain president she admired. Through a deal with Benin, Bram and Linc are able to stay with Meda on weekends and holidays. After cruelty and abuse from their employer forces the boys from Philadelphia, Meda and her family continue to treat them as their own. In the meantime, Sylvia has become a formidable and capable nurse at the city's island quarantine hospital, Lazaretto. When the boys return to the city in desperate circumstances, old paths eventually converge at the hospital. McKinney-Whetstone explores racial passing, class prejudice, the nature of family, and the longings of forbidden love, but the disjointed narratives often feel like two separate novels uncomfortably forced together. The emotional content is never allowed to rise above predictable contrivances of plot and unremarkable characterizations. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-245557-4
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-06-212697-9
MP3 CD - 978-1-5047-3076-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-5046-9712-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-5046-9713-2
Hardcover - 978-1-4104-9538-9
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-06-212698-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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