The New Yorker staff writer and author of the novel The End of October unpacks the Covid-19 pandemic, from the outbreak in China to the vaccine rollout, taking readers inside the CDC, the White House and other halls of power where those in charge of public health struggled to deal with the virus.
... incredibly-crafted ... Wright doesn’t wrap up with solace or closure in The Plague Year. How could you at this point? What he does provide is a well-wrought map covering the institutions and politicians that failed America during this stretch of the pandemic. But Wright crucially highlights those that also saved us — the first responders and the reasonable.
... lean-limbed, immersive ... Chapter by stellar chapter, Wright charts COVID-19's arc ... Wright is at his commanding best, though, when he places the pandemic in historical context — his detours into the Black Plague and the 1918 Spanish flu are narrative marvels — and in his portraits of the players ... He threads The Plague Year with delightful transatlantic calls to Gianna Pomata, a former Johns Hopkins professor now retired to her hometown of Bologna. Pomata has long studied the transformative impacts of pandemics on economies and social orders. She sees a silver lining in COVID-19, noting, with Italian brio and humor, that innovations evolve from global calamities. One could say the same about Wright's arresting book, birthed by a plague year but rich with peerless reportage and incisive critique.
Wright cuts through misinformation to present nearly every aspect of the year 2020, including the biological breakthroughs of vaccines, personal tragedies, and collective trauma. All is thoroughly discussed with empathy and compassion ... While there are already several other books about COVID-19 and its sociological impact on the United States, this wide-ranging yet deeply personal account is a great starting point. At times infuriating, unbelievable, heartbreaking, and even witty, Wright’s narrative is sorely needed.