In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Historical fiction set in 1918, amid the Spanish Flu pandemic and the end of World War I. It's when spiritualism flourished because with so many dead, who wouldn't want the comfort of knowing that their loved ones were happy on the other side, and looking out for the living?
Mary Shelley Black's father has been arrested for traitorous leanings (he's anti-war) and she leaves Portland to live with her Aunt Eva, recently widowed, in San Diego. That just happens to be where her childhood friend/possibly love-of-her-life Stephen lives, only he's just gone off to fight in WWI. Eva is much taken with Julius, Stephen's older half-brother, a spirit photographer; Mary is convinced that the photos are faked but agrees to get a new photo taken (her first is being used - without her permission - as an advertisement by Julius). Things get weird from there, with the possible ghost of Stephen contacting Mary.
Even without the spiritual elements, this would be an interesting book. Who knew that garlic and onions could keep the flu away? The fear and panic that we felt during the SARS and recent H1N1 epidemics were nothing to what these people felt, in addition to the Great War's effect on the population. Part of me wishes that the author had focused on that alone, leaving the spiritualism aside.
ARC provided by publisher.