How time flies.
Twenty years ago, Diane McKinney-Whetstone stunned readers with “Tumbling,” her debut novel. Elegantly written and intricately plotted, this prescient view of South Philadelphia neighbors grappling with gentrification offered characters and prose that left us yearning for more once we had arrived at the novel's conclusion.
She followed up the modern classic with “Tempest Rising,” “Blues Dancing,” “Leaving Cecil Street” and “Trading Dreams at Midnight,” which were all set in Philadelphia.
Now, the storyteller returns to her beloved city with her sixth effort, “Lazaretto.” an epic quite unlike anything McKinney-Whetstone has done or anything you'll read—all in wonderful ways. Her background certainly came in handy as the writer became obsessed with the city's infamous 1793 yellow fever outbreak, which threatened to wipe out large swaths of the population. Upon hearing more about The Philadelphia Lazaretto, the nation's first quarantine hospital, the author shifted the time period to the nineteenth century, in which Black denizens are mourning Abraham Lincoln's murder.
McKinney-Whetstone quickly enlivens this sprawling landscape with women and men—Black and White, wealthy and poor—whose fates intertwine because of The Lazaretto. It is a riveting story teeming with suspense as everyone in the narrative faces one of life’s ultimate nail-biters: the possibility of death. And, as in any Diane McKinney-Whetstone novel, there is love in all of its many facets and complicated dimensions. And like her previous works, the Philadelphian envelops her characters with some of the finest prose that you will read this year.
The author shows that good writing is like a fine bottle of wine—it just gets better with time.