In Wickett’s Remedy, Goldberg introduces us to Lydia Kilkenny, a somewhat ordinary Irish-American young woman from Southie (South Boston) who aspires to the more refined way of life found beyond the Broadway Bridge. She meets a shy medical student, Henry Wickett, who woos her with love letters. Their marriage enables Henry to find strength to defy his rich parents and become an independent businessman (part-time while working for his father) and creator of the elixir “Wickett’s Remedy.”
The novel is set mostly around the year 1918, during the great flu epidemic, but also covers selected short periods up to 1993. Lydia’s luck in eluding illness is relative, since she survives the loss of people she cares about. Throughout the book she’s followed, unconsciously, by the whisperings of friends and loved ones gone before. Also featured throughout are media glimpses at the success of QD Soda, marketed and owned by Quentin Driscoll (one of Henry’s former business associates); the soda is yet another of Lydia’s losses.
Wickett’s Remedy presents a skilful glimpse into women’s working class life around the 1920s. The brazen intrusions of the QD Soda story are stark contrasts to the elements of Lydia’s world. Goldberg accomplishes much with her deceptively easy style: the characters live, and the plot moves right along, even at times when it doesn’t appear like it’s going anywhere. The unusual marginalia format of the whisperings took a little getting used to but didn’t intrude on the story. It was sad to close this book for the final time; I look forward to Goldberg’s next novel.