“The Last Pharmacy” by Sarah Penner: National Public Radio


Sarah Penner’s first novel, The lost pharmacyIt is a captivating act of mystery, murder, trust and betrayal. Set in a gorgeous London setting, Penner’s immersive story subtly reveals the heartache and lost dreams of three captivating main characters in a tense drama that turns into a surprising page to the last paragraph.

In 1791, Nella Clavinger became an exclusive pharmacy owning and operating a store. It’s very exclusive, hidden behind a wall in a Bear Alley storage room, where she can catch potential customers through a peephole. And it’s hidden for a good reason: Herbs, bugs, etc. are designed to provide women in need with a choice – albeit a deadly choice – to correct a mistake they would otherwise not be able to, in an age when women cannot turn away from abusive husbands, fathers, brothers, or employers. But Nella is a skilled pharmacy that offers women a choice. Their tinctures (concentrated herbal extracts, which also feature an occasional dose of rat poison) can make a man’s problem go away. But Nella has rules – lines drawn in the sand that she thinks she’ll never get past.

Eliza Fanning is a 12-year-old maid. An intelligent, loyal and reliable girl, although somewhat faithful, visits Nella on behalf of her lover. She has specific instructions on what to buy (and for whom the dye is). But she is not ignorant of what Nella’s flasks contain or what she will achieve.

In present-day London, Caroline Barcywell is visiting from Ohio on a vacation of sorts, to celebrate her tenth wedding anniversary – but without her husband. She left him behind after confessing to infidelity. Caroline, an aspiring historian who once was, is so sad about his betrayal, but she realizes the options that led her to give up her dreams of becoming a date. But after her first tourist adventure, Silt (which refers to searching along the coast of the Thames in search of something ancient and valuable), these ideas take a back seat to curiosity. I found an old drugstore bottle with tags that could be a title. After visiting the British Library, Caroline’s old desire to discover the history of ancient things is resounding back.

The lost pharmacy Indulge from the start. Although Nella’s career may feel dread for some, Benner immerses you in London in 1791, patiently revealing Nella’s background and circumstances affecting her decision to transform her mother’s pharmacist shop, once a place of healing, into a haven for traitorous women who believe They are. They have no other choice but to kill.

Interestingly, this book is not a procedural study or a study in serial killer psychosis. What it does is create reader affinity with Nella, Eliza, and Caroline. We are rooted with the three main characters, and we want them to find a way to overcome problems that escalate in surprising ways.

Also attractive was Benner’s continuing return to the imminent themes of motherhood and femininity. It creates a sense of humanity – in other words, I didn’t feel guilty for not passing judgment on any of the female characters.

While The lost pharmacy It feels like starting out slowly, Penner builds tension by implanting us deeply in every woman’s psyche. Then as you dig the characters, disturb their foundations and change their expectations; Nella, Eliza, and Caroline must think quickly to avoid falling deeper into a hole that she does not see in the future. Nor are we, which just adds to the fun.

At some point, Nella says, “You can’t be betrayed by someone you don’t trust”. But trust me, you can trust Sarah Benner The lost pharmacy To keep flipping the pages of a story do not rest until the last sentence.

Denny S. Press writes historical novels. Her first novel, Wild Women and BluesComing this year.

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