The Pull of the Stars summary

The Pull of the Stars summary

The Pull of the Stars summary by Emma Donoghue (Author)

It’s 1918 in Dublin when the Great Flu is raging Ireland. Working at a simple hospital war seems risky and underappreciated. The Nurse Julia Power has to overwork for the understaffed hospital, as both war and the disease nib away at the town. She specializes in taking care of the mothers who have been infected by the terrible flu, and are quarantined together with them.

The other casts include doctor Kathleen Lynn, whom rumor has it that she is running from the law system, and also a young helper called Bridie Sweeney. Day by day, they exert themselves out in the tiny, dark ward. Things take a turn in the span of three days when these women change each other life. The baffling pandemic makes them lose their dear patients but gives them the chance to shepherd the rest into a more hopeful place.


It’s amazing how these mothers and carers do their impossible work with humanity and tenderness. The topic is also Emma Donoghue’s specialty: portraying hope and the will to survive against all odds in a trying time. The events in the novel are restricted in only three days, but successfully show how relentless these people are to save lives. Expect to see distress depicted in detail, so vivid that it is excruciating. Through this book, the author shows her thankfulness and love to the women who devote their soul, body, and mind to the wellbeing of others. A relevant this for these days. 

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Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is a writer of contemporary and historical fiction whose novels include the international bestseller "Room" (her screen adaptation was nominated for four Oscars), "Frog Music", "Slammerkin," "The Sealed Letter," "Landing," "Life Mask," "Hood," and "Stirfry." Her story collections are "Astray", "The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits," "Kissing the Witch," and "Touchy Subjects." She also writes literary history, and plays for stage and radio. She lives in London, Ontario, with her partner and their two children.


“Don’t believe history repeats itself? Read this book…an arresting new page turner of a novel… [The Pull of the Stars] takes place almost entirely in a single room and unfolds at the pace of a thriller.”

Karen Thompson WalkerNew York Times

“In doing a deep dive into the miseries and terrors of the past, Donoghue presciently anticipated the miseries and terrors of our present. . . . A deft, lyrical and sometimes even cheeky writer . . . she’s given us our first pandemic caregiver novel -- an engrossing and inadvertently topical story about health care workers inside small rooms fighting to preserve life.”

Maureen CorriganNPR

“Donoghue has fashioned a tale of heroism that reads like a thriller, complete with gripping action sequences, mortal menaces and triumphs all the more exhilarating for being rare and hard-fought… As in her best-known work, the deservedly mega selling Room, Donoghue infuses catastrophic circumstances with an infectious -- but by no means blind -- faith in human compassion, endurance and resilience.”

Wendy SmithWashington Post

The Pull of the Stars moves with the quickness of a thriller. . . . Donoghue has pulled off another feat: She wrote a book about a 100-year-old flu that feels completely current, down to the same frustrations and tensions and hopes and dangers. And she did it without even knowing just how relevant it would be -- how well and frighteningly her own reimagining of a historical catastrophe would square with our actual living experience of its modern sequel.”

Carolyn KelloggLos Angeles Times

“[Donoghue] conjures up a claustrophobic space -- And into it she brings the world. . . Our collective memory is now a little better anchored, a little more vivid -- thanks to Emma Donoghue.”

Laura SpinneyWired

“A visceral, harrowing, and revelatory vision of life, death, and love in a time of pandemic. This novel is stunning.”

Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Glass Hotel and Station Eleven

“Captures the reality and valor of frontline women during a global health crisis.”


"Echoes of our current catastrophe abound -- social distancing and confusing messaging among them -- but the heroine copes with so many turn-of-the-century medical horrors that you’ll hardly remember you’re reading a pandemic novel in the first place."

Entertainment Weekly

"With an urgency that brilliantly captures the high-stakes horror and exhilaration of life on a pandemic’s front lines, the Room author centers her latest spine-tingler on a maternity ward nurse charged with keeping new mothers -- and herself -- safe as the 1918 Great Flu sweeps Ireland."

O Magazine

“Captivating . . . outstanding . . . This intense and intimate novel unfolds over three days. But we would gladly spend longer with Julia, watching her in awe as she grapples with life and death in her ‘small square of the sickened, war-weary world.’”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune