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Unity (1918)

james hörner

i should preface this review by noting I was in the grips of the worst flu I've ever had (okay, second worst - at least I didn't have to get on a plane this time) while reading Unity (1918).

Unity 1918 The reason I note this is because the book is about the "Spanish Flu" epidemic that hit the world in the fall of 1918. While I was busy blowing my nose every three seconds, wanting to drive a sharp object into my sinuses, I was struck over how we really take modern medicine for granted. Sure, we still have killer mystery bugs like the recent SARS, but nothing on the magnitude and pace of the epidemic described in this book.

Kerr brings us into Unity, Saskatchewan to illustrate the panic and paranoia this modern plague brought to a small town already coping with a world at war. Through the surrounding death and fear, the characters meditate on love and mortality.

Unity took home the Governor General's Award for drama, and for good reason. In one play, Kerr explores a forgotten even in Canadian history, illustrates small town dynamics, while at the same time forcing us to consider some of the big questions regarding being and meaning. And it's funny, to boot.

I would like to think the world's changed a lot since 1918, but when you consider how the AIDs virus was responded to in the 80s you realize how little progress humanity has made in its ability to understand and cope with new threats. Kerr taps into the human response to the unknown, reminding us of the fragility of life and the struggle to find comfort in the midst of chaos.

However, all I could think upon finishing Unity (1918) that afternoon was how thankful I was to not being dying from the flu I was buried under.

published by Talonbooks
ISBN 0-88922-461-7

james hörner edits canadian content.

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