The Santa Claus Girl (Paperback)
YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS.Virginia grew up.
When the polio epidemic of '52 reaches New York City, a young WWII veteran races against time, public fear of the disease, and demons from his past, to save the life of a little girl.
Goodin debuts with a warmhearted story of a community struggling to navigate a 1952 outbreak of polio. The book centers on the efforts of Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas (a real historical figure), who is a school principal for chronically ill children in Brooklyn's New York General Hospital. Virginia, known as The Santa Claus girl due to the famous letter to a newspaper editor she wrote as a child asking if Santa is real, runs the school with her assistant, Valerie Jackson, a Black woman who's also afflicted by polio. The pair work diligently to mitigate the damaging effects of polio and foster hope in their patients, all against the backdrop of 1952's economic and political upheaval in America.
Goodin handles these weighty topics with care and delicacy, evoking the terror surrounding the unknowns of a disease without a viable vaccine but also the community's unwavering spirit as they unite to support the hospital's work. Fifteen-year-old Megan McGuire is one of the newest patients attending the school, but she's not the worst off: Rachel Hall, just five years old, is critically infected and unable to breathe on her own without an iron lung, but the hospital has none to spare. Enter cab driver Ben Wilson, a second World War veteran suffering from flashbacks but with a heart of gold, who pools his resources-along with the help of his boss, Gino Ruganni, co-workers, and even some local waitresses-to purchase a new iron lung to save Rachel's life.
Of course, Ben and company run into last-minute trouble on their heroic mission, but the story still builds toward a heartening ending. Along the way Goodin offers poignant coming-of-age moments for a local reporter interviewing Virginia, as well as insight into the era's political undercurrents (some of which eerily mimic contemporary politics). Christmas comes early for the hospital, and Virginia's words of wisdom ring true: "Take care of yourself, and help others along the way." -booklife/Publishers Weekly