The Woman With the Cure [Book Review] #HistoricalFiction #Scientists #Biographical @BerkleyPub

The Woman With the Cure is a fictionalized biography of Dorothy Horstmann who made great sacrifices to develop a vaccine for polio.

The Woman With the Cure by Lynn Cullen

The Woman With the Cure by Lynn Cullen (cover) Image: a woman stands with hands folded looking off to the sideGenre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, Biographical, Scientists, Polio, 1940s/1950s United States

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My Summary of The Woman With the Cure:

Thanks #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkelyWritesStrongWomen #BerkleyBuddyReads for a complimentary e ARC of #TheWomanWithTheCure upon my request. All opinions are my own.

In the 1940s and 1950s, America (and the world) is battling Polio, and the best scientists are in a race to find a vaccine. While her male colleagues are in a race to be first, Dorothy Horstmann is deeply concerned for the children who are suffering. She has her own suspicions and ideas of where the virus lurks, but the men overlook her. The Woman With the Cure highlights the scientist who sacrificed and worked relentlessly for the cure but didn’t receive recognition.

Dorothy Hortsmann, scientist

My Thoughts:


Through the efforts of historical fiction authors, women who have been unrecognized for their contributions are receiving attention. I love this about histfic and I admire the authors who are committed to purposeful and informative stories like this one based on real women. (I have a post highlighting similar books coming in March)

Relatable to Present Day

The process of developing a polio vaccine is interesting content in light of our recent success in the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 (please, no political comments!). My mother tells stories of the fear of contracting polio for years when she was young. I’m old enough to remember going down to the local school to get my sugar cubes! It’s always interesting to read about times that you and/or your parents have experienced. At the same time, it’s also disconcerting that my childhood is now considered historical fiction! LOL

Breaking Barriers

At a time when women had difficulty gaining acceptance to medical school, Dorothy Horstmann would not be deterred. The story highlights her journey to become a doctor and the first female professor at Yale School of Medicine as well as her important contributions in vaccine development. Yet she was basically invisible. It’s interesting that such a tall, brilliant woman would be invisible! Her name should have been listed on articles along with the men (or even ahead of the men). Very few men listened to her unique idea that the polio virus lurked in the blood.

A Lot of Science

Yes, there’s a great deal of science in this story. Some might find it dry for that reason and others might find it fascinating and informative. I admit skimming over some of the technical parts; yet, I found her story inspiring and intriguing.

I Wish…

Strictly a personal opinion here….I wish authors could restrain themselves from imposing modern day feminist thought on the past. In this story, Cullen goes out of her way to place Horstmann in Times Square when the iconic picture is taken of a soldier kissing a stranger on V-J Day. Of course, Horstmann interprets this as the aggressive action of a man kissing a woman without consent. *Insert eye-roll here*

Recommending The Woman With the Cure

This is a story I appreciate for its historical content, and I recommend it for readers interested in science, medicine, and public health. Fans of stories about strong women breaking barriers will also enjoy this. Books clubs will find a great deal to discuss.

Click here for more stories of inspirational real life women.

My Rating:  4  Stars


The Woman With the Cure by Lynn Cullen (cover) Image: a woman stands with hands folded looking off to the side

More Information Here

Meet the Author of The Woman With the Cure, Lynn Cullen

Author of The Woman With the Cure, Lynn CullenNational bestselling author Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her novel, MRS. POE was named a Book of the Week by People Magazine, a Target Book Club Pick, an NPR 2013 Great Read, an Indie Next List selection. the book of the month at Costco, an Oprah Book of the Week, and Best of 2013 by Atlanta Magazine. TWAIN’S END was a People Magazine Book of the Week, a Townsend Prize finalist, an Indie Next selection, and named a Book All Georgians Should Read by the Georgia Center for the Book. Her novels have been translated into seventeen languages and she has appeared on PBS American Masters. She lives in Atlanta with her large family when not on the road researching her next book.


Do you think this book about a woman scientist sounds interesting?

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  1. This looks good! I enjoy ALL your reviews, Carol, and I always agree with your points! I was in Kindergarten with a little boy who had had polio a couple of years before. He had a definite limp, but was otherwise okay (as far as I knew). And there were two fathers of classmates of mine in my own neighborhood who ended up in wheelchairs as a result of polio. I can’t imagine having that fear that my own children would get that disease! The Village Hall in my town is where I got my sugar cubes, and it was also a shelter that we would’ve gone to if we had been bombed. I remember seeing signs about that. I’m thankful for the polio vaccine and that we didn’t need to use that basement of the Village Hall as a bomb shelter!


    • Wow! Thanks for sharing Susan! And thanks for your kind words! My MIL was crippled by polio. The history in this story is definitely interesting! It’s shocking though that our youth is considered histfic! 😂

  2. Sounds pretty good, and something I might want to read. But who is to say that the woman being kissed was without consent??? We don’t know that! Maybe she wanted to be kissed!

  3. This book sounds interesting, Carol. I think I might have the same issues you had with it. We must be from the same era. I, too, remember going to the school on three Sunday afternoons after church to get my sugar cubes. I think I was 11 years old. What a pleasant way to get a vaccine!

    As a writer attempting to write historical fiction, not giving female characters of earlier times the feminist views of today can be difficult. I want to write strong female characters who are in some ways “pushing the envelope.” There’s a fine line there that I try not to cross. Time will tell how successful I am.

    • It’s a fascinating read Janet! Although I can’t believe our childhood is now histfic! 😂

      I agree about that fine line! I have read many female characters who push the boundaries of the day……but it’s the authors agenda that is at times too obvious! I’m sure you are creating lovely and strong characters.

  4. Great review, Carol. I agree, tell history as it was, not how you wish it were. I did read some articles about Dorothy Horstmann when this book came out and she is beginning to get some recognition, but not enough and not soon enough.

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