A White Wind Blew

James Markert. Sourcebooks, $25.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4022-7837-2
Music comes to a tuberculosis hospital in the prohibition-era American South in this absorbing historical, based on a real Louisville sanatorium operating at the turn of the 20th century. At Waverly Hills, the young and old alike are sequestered, and many won’t survive. Coffins are sent away in a tunnel to hide the high death rate. Walking among the ill is Dr. Wolfgang Pike, an amateur composer and would-be priest who was derailed from his godly purposes by his late wife. Haunted by her memory and desperate to aid his patients, Pike schemes to bring more music into the sanatorium, forming a band with the patients. But bureaucracy, the ongoing march of death among his musicians, and the KKK, whose members don’t approve of Pike’s Catholicism and racial liberality, provide obstacles to success. From secret rehearsals to hijinks with patients on the loose, from profound and tender moments to unspeakable violence, the orchestra’s journey from idea to entity enthralls the whole hospital community. Though a romantic backstory and the racial strife can feel formulaic, Markert displays great imagination in describing the rivalries, friendships, and intense relationships among the often quirky and cranky terminally ill, and the way that a diagnosis, or even a cure, can upset delicate dynamics. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/14/2013
Release date: 02/01/2013
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!