Decades of spiraling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable: a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms.’ Hospitals where no one ever gets well.
Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything.
Because Kate is not the only secret that her birth mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.
Let’s not beat about the bush. Reading a book like this whilst in the grip of a worldwide pandemic was a little challenging at times. It’s an intense, gripping read which is all too topical.
I particularly enjoyed the jumping timelines. The nervous present where a simple infection can mean death, the over 70s are left without any antibiotics by law and the government has cracked down on hygiene security. No-one thinks twice about wearing a mask outside, or checking their temperature regularly. Hygiene is king.
Then there’s the before, set when tuberculosis infection rates are just starting to rise and the hunt is on for a miracle cure.
The story is told against this backdrop from the viewpoint of three protagonists. Lily, a woman on the verge of her 70th birthday in a care home, who thinks she’s seen a face from her past. Kate, a nurse who is looking for her birth mother after her adoptive mother dies. And finally Mary, whose story is set years before the current crisis in South Africa, on the hunt for the drug that might save humanity.
I do love a good timeline hopping story, and it’s fascinating to see how the lives of these three women interact across the years, coming to an entirely satisfying conclusion.
It took me a little while to get into the book, given the current climate. But what I found was an intriguing ‘what if?’ story which hits all too close to home. Strong characters, great writing and a chilling setting make this book an easy recommend.
Now go wash your hands. Stay safe.
The Waiting Rooms by Eve C. Smith is published by Orenda Books and is out now. Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and for the advance copy of the book to review.