Stu Whitney has accomplished what most novelists dream of – a great novel, written and published at the right moment. The Covid Chronicles tackles tough issues that we have all struggled with over the past year. The fear and uncertainty that swept into our lives with the COVID-19 pandemic are illuminated through a father’s hopes for his son’s future.
The novel paints an intimate view of a man’s personal and professional conflicts, and the harsh reality that can follow when we make the wrong choices. A patchwork of realistic characters and situations brings insight and validation of what we’ve all experienced in the past 16 months. Through a fictional story set in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the truth of just how divided Americans are is brought to life. Everyone will see shadows of their own reality in the pages of this book.
Early in the pandemic, when people are feeling vulnerable and afraid, they watch from the sidelines as public health and disease mitigation become politicized. The editor of a South Dakota newspaper becomes intertwined with people from both factions: a radical right-wing group that opposes any government intervention regarding COVID-19, and a Democratic mayor who tries to comply with local health officials.
The main character’s son, Nathan, is recruited to play for the Edison High School football team. It is his senior year and they’re in the running for the school’s first-ever state championship. Nathan wants this, bad. Like many fathers, Nate’s dad seeks personal redemption for his past failures, if only his son can accomplish this one thing.
As COVID numbers increase, there is a political back and forth between the Trump-following Governor of South Dakota and the mayor of Sioux Falls. It is an election year, and there is no way that the Governor, a Republican clearly based on Kristi Noem in word and deed, is going to allow mask mandates and risk alienating Trump’s base. During the chaos post-election, with Trump refusing to concede and the anti-mask movement becoming volatile, the mayor of Sioux Falls finally decides to take action on the eve of the state championship game.
This may be a debut novel but it is clear that Whitney has been writing for a long time. I expect this to be one of the firsts in what will be a long line of novels that tell our stories of the COVID-19 pandemic. Books like this serve a purpose greater than simple entertainment; they help bring understanding to our personal struggles in times of uncertainty. Brava, Mr. Whitney. Five Stars.
This review originally appeared on Reedsy.com’s discovery website.
Covid Chronicles is included for free with Kindle Unlimited.