cover image The Light of Luna Park

The Light of Luna Park

Addison Armstrong. Putnam, $17 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-593328-04-0

Armstrong’s impressive debut chronicles the parallel stories of two strong women who are unafraid to risk their careers to do what’s right. In 1926, Althea Anderson, a nurse at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, is devastated to learn the physician she assists in the obstetrics ward won’t treat underweight infants. After watching a preemie die, Althea speaks up the next time she’s attending a premature birth, advising the parents that their daughter, Margaret, might live if she were transferred to Coney Island, where Dr. Martin Couney is reported to have saved thousands of infants through the use of incubators. Couney charges nothing, but he puts the children on public display. The baby’s father, however, prefers to follow “God’s plan,” rather than have Margaret exhibited next to burlesque dancers and fire breathers. Althea lets Margaret’s parents believe their child has died and secretly takes her to Couney. Althea’s story alternates with sections set in 1950, as 24-year-old Poughkeepsie teacher Stella Wright struggles to deal with the recent death of her mother and the impossible conditions of her job. Stella, too, speaks out for the neglected and voiceless, even as she learns a surprising secret about her family. Though the reveal is telegraphed early on, Armstrong still manages to make it emotionally powerful. Readers will be touched by this story of courage and love. Agent: Melissa Danaczko, Stuart Krichevsky Literary. (Aug.)