The Plague Year
America in the Time of Covid
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Looming Tower, and the pandemic novel The End of October: an unprecedented, momentous account of Covid-19—its origins, its wide-ranging repercussions, and the ongoing global fight to contain it
"A book of panoramic breadth ... managing to surprise us about even those episodes we … thought we knew well … [With] lively exchanges about spike proteins and nonpharmaceutical interventions and disease waves, Wright’s storytelling dexterity makes all this come alive.” —The New York Times Book Review
From the fateful first moments of the outbreak in China to the storming of the U.S. Capitol to the extraordinary vaccine rollout, Lawrence Wright’s The Plague Year tells the story of Covid-19 in authoritative, galvanizing detail and with the full drama of events on both a global and intimate scale, illuminating the medical, economic, political, and social ramifications of the pandemic.
Wright takes us inside the CDC, where a first round of faulty test kits lost America precious time . . . inside the halls of the White House, where Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger’s early alarm about the virus was met with confounding and drastically costly skepticism . . . into a Covid ward in a Charlottesville hospital, with an idealistic young woman doctor from the town of Little Africa, South Carolina . . . into the precincts of prediction specialists at Goldman Sachs . . . into Broadway’s darkened theaters and Austin’s struggling music venues . . . inside the human body, diving deep into the science of how the virus and vaccines function—with an eye-opening detour into the history of vaccination and of the modern anti-vaccination movement. And in this full accounting, Wright makes clear that the medical professionals around the country who’ve risked their lives to fight the virus reveal and embody an America in all its vulnerability, courage, and potential.
In turns steely-eyed, sympathetic, infuriated, unexpectedly comical, and always precise, Lawrence Wright is a formidable guide, slicing through the dense fog of misinformation to give us a 360-degree portrait of the catastrophe we thought we knew.