Review: The Woman with the Cure by Lynn Cullen

Author Lynn Cullen has penned a number of historical fiction novels, but I think the one she is best known for is Mrs Poe. I love Poe so naturally I wanted to read Mrs Poe when it came out. I loved it and was so excited to see what other books Cullen put out. Since I read that book, she had come out with a number of other novels, but I think that Mrs Poe remains her most well known book.

I love how well researched Cullen’s novels are and she often takes the untold, behind the scenes stories of unknown figures in famous people’s lives and brings them out of the shadows and into the light. She has written books not only about Poe, but also about Mark Twain, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo all from the perspective of characters in their orbit. If you are a fan of historical fiction, there is no doubt Lynn Cullen is on your radar already but if for some reason you haven’t heard of her then you need to check out her books!

When this one came across my desk for review, I couldn’t pass on it. It just sounded too good! Plus while it might be a piece of historical fiction, it could also have modern relevance as this book features a pandemic. I mean how much more relatable can you get with that? I have never actually heard of Dorothy Horstmann, so I was eager to read more about this woman and see how she impacted the world with her knowledge and research.


She gave up everything— and changed the world.

A riveting novel based on the true story of the woman who stopped a pandemic, from the bestselling author of Mrs. Poe.

In 1940s and ’50s America, polio is as dreaded as the atomic bomb. No one’s life is untouched by this disease that kills or paralyzes its victims, particularly children. Outbreaks of the virus across the country regularly put American cities in lockdown. Some of the world’s best minds are engaged in the race to find a vaccine. The man who succeeds will be a god.

But Dorothy Horstmann is not focused on beating her colleagues to the vaccine. She just wants the world to have a cure. Applying the same determination that lifted her from a humble background as the daughter of immigrants, to becoming a doctor –often the only woman in the room–she hunts down the monster where it lurks: in the blood.

This discovery of hers, and an error by a competitor, catapults her closest colleague to a lead in the race. When his chance to win comes on a worldwide scale, she is asked to sink or validate his vaccine—and to decide what is forgivable, and how much should be sacrificed, in pursuit of the cure. (summary from Goodreads)


This book was excellent. Part of me had some reservations. I am not a huge science person and I was worried that some terms or figures might go over my head. I had similar fears with the film, Hidden Figures, which I ended up loving, while I had some reservations they were unfounded. Cullen does a great job presenting the story of a brilliant scientist and doctor who developed a cure for polio, a complex virus. I didn’t know much about polio so learning about it through an approachable medium was really beneficial and helpful for me. I loved how presentable all the history and science was in this book. It wasn’t overwhelming and it was all very interesting, this is one of the reasons I love reading, you get to learn something new with every book!

I also loved the story and message this book sent. Dorothy Horstmann was a woman ahead of her time. She worked hard and was focused solely on patient care and how to cure sick people. She didn’t get caught up in her ego or the politics of science. She was a woman breaking barriers and the mould for what a woman ‘should be’ and I thought her story would really resonate with modern readers. Especially with the STEM angle. There have been a lot of books in recent years about STEM (STEM romances, STEM mysteries etc) all of the books note how hard it is for women in science. I really loved how this book showed that historically women struggled in STEM fields but for those pioneers, they never gave up. This was an excellent read and modern readers will find a kindred spirit in Dorothy Horstmann.

Sometimes it can be difficult to balance historical fiction with research, character development, and pacing. Cullen flawlessly weaves them all together. The book has great pacing and presents well researched facts without feeling like a history book. And getting to know the characters and their own individual stories worked seamlessly in the story. Dorothy Horstmann is a character readers can look up to and cheer for. I adored reading this story and I cannot wait for more of Cullen’s books. In fact I downloaded two others! So far this is one of my favorite books of 2023 and it shouldn’t be missed. Don’t let the STEM portion intimidate you, Cullen is a master storyteller and you will not be disappointed!

Book Info and Rating

Format: 400 pages, Paperback

Expected publication: February 21, 2023 by Berkley Books

ISBN: 9780593438060 (ISBN10: 059343806X)

Free review copy provided by publisher,. Berkley Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating; 5 stars

Genre: historical fiction


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