A pandemic requires a little help from 'The Helpers'

A new novel by Kathy Gilsinan looks at the pandemic from all levels of the battle.

"The Helpers" by Kathy Gilsinan
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Just a little pinch.

That's what they tell you when you get a shot in the arm. Just a "pinch," a half-second of pain and you can handle that, right? Still, nobody likes getting a shot. Nobody enjoys the sore arm afterward or anything else about it. Those things aren't fun but neither, as in the new book "The Helpers" by Kathy Gilsinan, is a pandemic.

Some people saw it coming: the sister of The Patient was a doctor herself, for instance, and she was aware. The Vaccine Developer, who spent most of her time studying a headline-making disease from years ago, was alarmed, too. They recognized that the virus running rampant in China was trouble in the making.

Helpers author CREDIT Jeannine Crider.jpg
Kathy Gilsinan, author of "The Helpers."
Contributed photo / Jeannine Crider

The CEO knew it, too: the headquarters of his company, "one of only a handful in the world" that made ventilators, was near where the first U.S. death from the virus occurred. If they could get the parts, his factories could manufacture more machines but not the "tens of thousands" of ventilators that the country needed. This dilemma led him to a car company.

Because he'd dealt with emergencies for most of his working life, The Paramedic recognized the urgency of it all, and he headed with a team from Colorado to New York to help. He still had 9/11 on his mind, and regretted that he hadn't offered a hand then.


As the patient load went "from two to nearly 700 in two weeks in the middle of March" that year, The Nurse watched it and she was exhausted. She lived with her parents and grandmother in a Bronx apartment, and she had to avoid carrying the virus home.

As The Chef tried to figure out how to feed her poor community in the shadow of Breonna Taylor's murder, The CEO brought his former VP of manufacturing out of retirement, and The Vaccine Developer lost sleep over a preventative. Meanwhile, The Paramedic wasn't feeling well, The Nurse tested positive, and The Patient's mother lay in a coma...

For going on three years now, Covid-19 has saturated our lives and killed more than a million American parents, children, and grandparents.

Now's the time to read "The Helpers."

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Author Christine Kandic Torres explores the lives, loves and dangers of two girls who grew up together in New York.

Here, author Kathy Gilsinan specifically names her subjects – depicted are real people and real lives, and nearly all of them are everyday folks who pounced on the problems endemic to a pandemic. The few who weren't "helpers" nevertheless help by displaying the inner workings of caregiving in chaos, and it all reads like a thriller, with heart-stopping moments of terror mixed with a backstory, heroes who rush to save lives, a surprising bit of adventure, and a little light toward the end of the book. Yes, there's death here, and frustration, and Gilsinan doesn't skip the naysayers in an account that's familiar but fresh.

More than a million Americans. Are you keeping a wary eye on this fall? Then this is a book you'll want to read. For you, "The Helpers" is worth pinching into.

Books for the coming week

"His Name is George Floyd" by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa (very good book on George Floyd, racism, current events; authors are from Florida, out 5/17)

"Dot & Ralfie" by Amy Hoffman (adorable novel about aging lesbians; MA author, out 4/26)


"Razzmatazz" by Christopher Moore (novel, CA author, out 5/17) (LGBTQ editors: ask if you want this as an extra)

"Every Cloak Rolled in Blood" by James Lee Burke (autobiographical novel that's very good so far; MT author, out 5/24)

"Ready for Launch" by Scott Kelly (business for YA to adult, CO author, out 4/12)

"The Hawk's Way" by Sy Montgomery (encounters with a bird, NH author, out 5/3)

African American papers may see "Inclusion Revolution" from a couple weeks ago.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on the prairie in Wisconsin with one man, two dogs and 16,000 books. Look for her at or bookwormsez on Twitter.

Bookworm — Terri Schlichenmeyer column sig

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