Winnie's War by Jenny Moss

devafagan's review

Go to review page

An intriguing look at a moment in time: not just the 1918 influenza epidemic that serves as the backdrop, but the changes wrought in the life of narrator Winnie. I enjoyed how this book provided a window into both the macro and the micro. We see how the fear of the epidemic spreads even ahead of the disease itself, while at the same time exploring Winnie's relationship with her troubled mother.

library_brandy's review

Go to review page


Winnie’s small town of Coward Creek, Texas, is just outside Galveston, decimated by the great 1900 hurricane. Almost two decades later, there’s another looming disaster: the Spanish influenza. When Winnie’s father brings her along on a carpentry job to measure a deceased neighbor for a coffin, Winnie knows that the flu has come to Coward Creek. She will try anything she can to protect her family and keep them from catching the flu, even though she knows that the home remedies are all but useless. In addition to protecting everyone from illness, Winnie is coping with her withdrawn mother, a best friend who suddenly wants nothing to do with her, and a grandmother who finds fault in Winnie’s every action.

This is not so much about the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, but rather it’s a quiet, character-driven story. While Winnie and her grandmother are well drawn, though, many others blend into an amalgam of Townspeople (and there are a lot of them). The pandemic is more a background detail than a plot—it’s something that’s happening while Winnie is navigating the individual relationships with her friends and family members. There’s a lot going on here and it’s hard to determine what the central element is. The facts are meticulously researched, but Winnie’s voice is colored with only a flat, low-level worry. With the Galveston area hit so mildly by this flu (especially as compared to cities like Boston and New York), there’s no sense of fear like there is in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793 (for example).

Overall, this didn’t hold my interest (despite my curiosity about pandemics and how people dealt with them). For teen fiction dealing with pandemics, I’d recommend instead Fever 1793 as referenced above; for adult fiction, Myla Goldberg’s Wickett’s Remedy.