JOHN SMOLENS: "Quarantine" (Book Rack)
In 1796, a trading ship arrives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, its crew decimated by a virulent fever which causes residents of the harbor town to fall ill and die with alarming haste. When physician Giles Wiggins places the port under quarantine, he earns the ire of his shipbuilder half-brother, Enoch Sumner, and their eccentric mother, Miranda. Defiantly, Giles sets up a pest-house, where the afflicted might be cared for and separated from the rest of the populace.
As the seaport descends into panic, religious fervor, and mob rule, bizarre occurrences ensue: the harbormaster’s family falls victim to the fever, except for his son, Leander Hatch, who is taken in at the Sumner mansion, where he challenges order and tradition; a young woman, Marie Montpelier, is fished out of the Merrimack River, causing Giles and Enoch — who is convinced she’s the expatriate daughter of the French king — to vie for her attentions; and medical supplies are pillaged by a black marketer from Boston. As the epidemic grows, fear, greed, and unhinged obsession threaten the Sumner family — and the future of Newburyport itself.
Quarantine is John Smolens’ eloquent, darkly ironic portrait of an early American city under duress caused by a mysterious pestilence, and of a prominent family which succumbs to its own corrupt influence and desires.
John Smolens, a former resident of Newburyport, was educated at Boston College, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Iowa. He taught at Michigan State University, and is currently teaching in the Master of Fine Arts program at Northern Michigan University, where he has been the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award. In 2010 he received the Michigan Author of the Year Award from The Michigan Library Association.
- The Book Rack
- 52 State Street
- Newburyport ,