Review: Lazaretto (A Novel)



Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s nationally bestselling novel, Tumbling, immersed us into Philadelphia’s black community during the Civil Rights era, and she returns to the city in this new historical novel about a cast of nineteenth-century characters whose colorful lives intersect at the legendary Lazaretto—America’s first quarantine hospital.

Isolated on an island where two rivers meet, the Lazaretto quarantine hospital is the first stop for immigrants who wish to begin new lives in Philadelphia. The Lazaretto’s black live-in staff forge a strong social community, and when one of them receives permission to get married on the island the mood is one of celebration, particularly since the white staff—save the opium-addicted doctor—are given leave for the weekend. On the eve of the ceremony, a gunshot rings out across the river. A white man has fired at a boat carrying the couple’s friends and family to the island, and the captain is injured. His life lies in the hands of Sylvia, the Lazaretto’s head nurse, who is shocked to realize she knows the patient.

Intertwined with the drama unfolding at the Lazaretto are the fates of orphan brothers. When one brother commits a crime to protect the other, he imperils both of their lives—and the consequences ultimately deliver both of them to the Lazaretto.

In this masterful work of historical fiction, Diane McKinney-Whetstone seamlessly transports us to Philadelphia in the aftermath of the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination, beautifully evoking powerful stories of love, friendship and humanity amid the vibrant black community that flourished amid the troubled times.

Rating: 5 stars


Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone is a historical fiction novel that takes immediately back to the post Civil War time period. The cruel injustices brought onto the Africans during this time period can be seen by all. I picked this novel because of the racial issues covered in this brilliant novel. As a student, I have just studied this topic and wanted to read more about the time period and Lazaretto was definitely the, it novel to read. Readers will be intrigued by the rise of conflicts, lies, and danger of secrets once kept.

The one of a kind historical novel, Lazaretto, is a story of a hospital that comes under deep scrutiny during a conflicted time era. Blacks are staffed at the hospital where tensions and drama will soon follow. A woman gives birth to a child but is told it died only that wasn’t true. What happens to the woman who kept the lie and what happens the lies and secrets resurface will cause trouble for all including the hospital. A realistic portrayal of Africans and white folk is clearly visible within this story. The danger and suspense will keep readers guessing on every page. The drama and action will leave readers glued onto every detail. A juicy historical that will become the new all-time classic read for readers everywhere.  I enjoyed reading this new title by Diane McKinney-Whetstone, and I highly recommend to readers worldwide. The Lazaretto is one must read for all.

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