Review: Book abundantly illustrates pandemic’s impact on lives
“Voice of the Pandemic” by Eli Saslow (Doubleday)
More than 18 months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has already been a bumper crop of books on COVID-19 that have mostly focused on the political failures that allowed the virus to spread.
Rather, Eli Saslow’s “Voice of the Pandemic” draws attention to people who have been affected by the virus.
Originally a series that aired in The Washington Post and won a George Polk Prize for Oral History, “Voices from the Pandemic” offers many examples of the heartbreaking, infuriating and even inspiring way COVID-19 has changed. our world.
Stories range from the partner of the first Indiana patient to die of COVID-19 to a Kentucky patient describing what it was like to be intubated. A coroner in Georgia describes the haunting reality of watching his community ravaged by the virus. A Connecticut woman shares the pain she feels after passing the virus on to her elderly mother.
The stories illustrate other ways the pandemic has changed lives, including a woman evicted from her home and a mother struggling with virtual learning for her children as schools were closed.
Reading a book like this in the midst of the delta variant surge might seem like a depressing chase, but it seems oddly cathartic. So many emotions and experiences are familiar. This collection is a reminder of how much we all share in a time of great loss.
Particularly resonant is a chapter on the fight for masks featuring a general store worker grappling with customers refusing to wear them and a man from Arizona walking into stores to protest their tenure.
In the only “official” voice, the book begins with quotes from World Health Organization briefings at the start of the pandemic. One passage is particularly chilling.
“Are we ready to fight rumors and misinformation with clear and simple messages that people can understand? Are we able to have our people by our side to fight this epidemic? The passage reads.
“Voices of the Pandemic” offers a rich and precious portrait of a confusing and frightening time in our history, even with this second question unanswered.