Cover Image: The Helpers

The Helpers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Fascinating and enlightening. Written with care and compassion. Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this book....it profiles several people who were 'helpers' during the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance... a nurse, a paramedic, a chef, a mortician, a scientist working on the vaccine, a CEO & a patient. I thought it did a good job of recapping some of the mood of the country/attitudes at that time, & reminded me of different happenings/events during that period. I experienced a lot of 'oh yeah, I remember that...' while reading this book. It's a good book, easy to read.....& I even enjoyed the acknowledgments at the end!
I received this e-ARC from publisher W.W. Norton & Company via NetGalley, in return for reading it & posting my own fair/honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The Helpers
Profiles from the Front Lines of the Pandemic
by Kathy Gilsinan


I thought The Helpers would be a feel-good story about the heroes of the pandemic. It is a story about the heroes of the pandemic, but it didn’t make me feel good. And, as I learned in the book, they don’t like to be called heroes. 
I should have known that. As a primary care physician, I didn’t know I was an “essential worker” until the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the so-called lockdown, I still went to my clinic every day, although we cared for some patients virtually. I didn’t feel like a hero, I was just doing my job. And so were they. 
Published March 1, 2022, The Helpers tells the story of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic through the eyes and hands of 8 people who truly lived it on the front line- a son/caregiver, a semi-retired paramedic, an ICU nurse, the CEO of a small ventilator manufacturing company, a scientist  researching mRNA vaccines, a chef who taught culinary skills to high schoolers, a critical care physician, and a funeral director. 
Starting from the pandemic’s quiet beginning late in 2019 through the vaccine distribution and administration in early 2021, the author explains in meticulous detail how the pandemic impacted their lives, their families, and communities. Despite being front line workers, they suffered the same things others did-isolation, loss of jobs and income, demanding work schedules under pressure; and for some, infection with the virus, hospitalization, intubation, and death. 
Simultaneously with their stories, Ms. Gilsinan tells the story of the government response to the pandemic, and her descriptions are not always complimentary. Rather, she starkly points out the delays, misplaced priorities, and partisanship that she feels made the response less successful than it could have been, and which cost needless lives. 
I said this book didn’t make me feel good, but it did make me proud- proud of the people this book introduced me too, and to all of us who faced this virus together. As Ms. Gilsinan wrote 
“The Helpers isn’t a partisan morality tale. The virus further polarized a deeply politically divided country, but it didn’t care which side its victims fell on…and no one is worried about anyone’s party affiliation in the ICU or the food pantry. Even at our most divided, our country is so much bigger and better than our politics.” 
I may change my mind about this book making you feel good. Read it and let me know what you think.
Was this review helpful?
This book is right up my alley as I have been working on the COVID-19 response for the past 2+ years. One thing that I did not appreciate about this book was the fact that public health professionals were not highlighted in these stories. While there are many areas in the COVID-19 pandemic that are covered, I think one of the most important but the most underlooked is the public health response and taking all of the information and data collected and turning that into policy and scientific advice and evidence and I did not appreciate that this book also overlooked that key aspect of the pandemic.
Was this review helpful?
Interesting stories from the pandemic! I recommend this to understand the broader picture. Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Was this review helpful?
I hesitated to start reading this book, as we have just started our third year of living, pandemic style, and I have become very weary, but I enjoyed it. 

Such a touching collection of stories from very different people, coming from different perspectives. If we are tired of the pandemic right now, how very frightening it was back in the early days when people didn't know very much about it and there was no vaccine.....so grateful for the vaccine. 

My heart broke for the family members who passed away as a direct result of this horrible virus and a lot of respect for those who ran TOWARDS the fire (metaphorically speaking) instead of away from it. 

There are still lots of very good people in the world, thankfully.

4.5 stars from me.

Thank you to NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company.
Was this review helpful?
Probably a 4.5 for me personally. I was wary of reading a book about the pandemic while we're still in it. But I learned a lot from this one. 

I think, since it's an experience all of us went through together, there were hundreds (maybe thousands) of untold stories like these that went unheard during that first year because we were all wrapped up in our own personal drama at the time. 

I am grateful the author choose to capture that moment in time, when "we suffered on a grand scale and coped on a small one" and selected these particular stories. 

The book follows only a handful of characters interspersing and revisiting their stories as the pandemic progresses. In some ways, this is a frustrating artistic choice. Just when you're getting into someone's story, you switch to another one. This also means that if one of the stories doesn't quite grip you, you're out of luck. It'll still take up a chunk of the book. But overall, the selection of characters/circumstances showed nice range and gave us a solid snapshot of the pandemic.

I think the author really hit the nail on the head with these words: "As much as this book is about individual heroism, it is also by implication an indictment of the institutions that left them unsupported or unprotected, and whose failures made so much of their courage necessary in the first place." 

This is NOT a political book (I'm sure those are being written too). It focuses on the actions of ordinary Americans and how they helped the rest of the country, without getting too much into the headlines at the time. I appreciated this choice, although I remain sad and angry that so many had to lead the charge while being so unsupported.

While we're still in this pandemic, inundated with stories of people's bad behavior and refusal to protect others, I really needed the reminder from this book that, "most Americans reported practicing social distancing and wore masks to leave the home, making millions of difficult, boring, unglamorous decision to protect their neighbors, adding up to an act of mass kindness."

Add this book to the list of things to file under that "mass kindness." I found it hopeful, inspiring, and educational. Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Kathy Gilsinan has done an incredible job of depicting the humanity of the Covid pandemic by profiling several Helpers during the early months and over a year of the pandemic. Proactive and extensive research in developing and safely producing vaccines. The unlikely partnership between a ventilator manufacturer and auto manufacturer. Exhausted healthcare professionals dealing with increased patient numbers and not enough supplies, medications, equipment to care for them. When schools and restaurants were shut down, a cooking instructor changed direction to have her students cook for those in need. An ambulance driver from Colorado who goes to New York to help ferry patients and equipment. The funeral director who must deal with the deaths of so many Covid patients and having to turn away families, all while his own family is growing. So many helpers!

Individuals and families are dealing with uncertainty and fear, as the Covid virus takes hold and spreads. In the midst of the pandemic devastation, this book reminds us of the determination and resilience of people and companies to work together for the common good, to do what’s right. That makes me hopeful.

Thank you, Net Galley, for the opportunity to read this advance copy. I encourage everyone to read The Helpers.  I have already preordered my own copy.
Was this review helpful?
I tried to read this book but ultimately felt it was not a topic that I wanted to engage in, despite the cover and description first catching my eye. It’s almost too much, too soon and not to mention it’s all we hear about every day in the news.
Was this review helpful?
Ohhh, i was so disappointed by this book. I had really high hopes and I thought I would love it but I just didnt! I really enjoyed reading certain perspectives including the patient and the nurse but the rest just didnt interest me much at all. I dont know if its because it was based in America so it wasnt as relatable as it would have been if based in the UK. Dont get me wrong it was very interesting and finding out about the process of developing a vaccine is good to know but the book as a whole just didnt captivate me. I stuck it out but was glad when it was over.
Was this review helpful?
I think the cover of the book sums up what an emotional ride we have all been on the last couple of years.  A deeply moving narrative of the coronavirus pandemic, told through portraits of eight individuals who worked tirelessly to help others.

In March 2020, COVID-19 overtook the United States, and life changed for America. In a matter of weeks the virus impacted millions, with lockdown measures radically reshaping the lives of even those who did not become infected. Yet despite the fear, hardship, and heartbreak from this period of collective struggle, there was hope.

In The Helpers, journalist Kathy Gilsinan profiles eight individuals on the frontlines of the coronavirus battle: a devoted son caring for his family in the San Francisco Bay Area; a not-quite-retired paramedic from Colorado; an ICU nurse in the Bronx; the CEO of a Seattle-based ventilator company; a vaccine researcher at Moderna in Boston; a young chef and culinary teacher in Louisville, Kentucky; a physician in Chicago; and a funeral home director in Seattle and Los Angeles. These inspiring individual accounts create an unforgettable tapestry of how people across the country and the socioeconomic spectrum came together to fight the most deadly pandemic in a century.
Such a well researched and informative book I recommend everyone reads this.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you for the opportunity to read The Helpers.

This book was an informative and driven piece of work with research, evidence and an empathetic nature behind it to make it all the more enjoyable.

It was difficult reading about the times which we have all recently experienced however I know in 10 years time, this book will be a great way to remind others younger than us of what the world was like.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you for the opportunity to read 'The Helpers'.

I found it fascinating to read about the lives of eight individuals who made a difference to so many other people's lives during the Covid pandemic in the USA.  The book was well researched, educational and covered many different aspects of the pandemic - patients, doctors, volunteers, ventilator manufacturers etc.

It has given me a new insight and respect for the work just a few to them many unsung heroes contributed to helping the world move through the pandemic.
Was this review helpful?
Poignant for me to read as someone more than halfway through medical school. I loved the interweaving stories of those involved in the pandemic response. We need more books like this.
Was this review helpful?
Superb book, really well written and cleverly constructed. The way the different people's stories interweave showed how connected we all are despite how disconnected the pandemic has made us feel. Joy and sadness obviously both feature as they should really given, once again, how the last couple of years have affected all of us.
A fascinating insight into communities that perhaps many of us would not get to experience otherwise.
Was this review helpful?
The Helpers is exactly the book I’ve been waiting for. As gruesome as it sounds, ever since the pandemic hit I’ve been wondering how it would impact literature and waiting for books to be printed to commemorate this painfully-long moment in our collective history. This novel follows several stories of front line workers and their families as they each experience aspects of the pandemic. Some aspect of the story is likely to be relatable to most readers and other aspects will enlighten you and fill you in on what your neighbours, coworkers or friends were probably dealing with. It was extremely detailed and informative while also very personal and story-like. My only disappointment was that I wasn’t prepared when it suddenly ended! This is in part due to reading it on a device and not realizing the remaining sections were citations etc. I thought this was a very good book and am so thankful to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this book early!
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of The Helpers, by Kathy Gilsinan.  This book was good, but I found it to be too clinical at times.  More textbook then novel.
Was this review helpful?
Stories taken from interviews of several different people who faced the initial Covid-19 emergency in the U.S. There is an ICU nurse, an entire family who contracts Covid-19 in varying degrees of severity; one of the scientists who invented the Moderna vaccine, a first responder on the verge of retirement who travels across the country to aid NYC's overwhelm, a manufacturer of ventilators.

The stories alternate, and we follow the individuals and their families through their vantage point of the 2020-21 epidemic.
Was this review helpful?
A good insight to what American covid was like, very different to Britain due to the size of the US the approach and the feelings of the individuals is very different to the UK. The book mainly focused on one family and this would be good to understand how it impacted and they felt. This might be good for the future for people who can’t remember what specifically they felt or saw, a national event that will be remembered forever. The vaccine development was interesting and had good potential but I felt this lacked specific focus and maybe it will be written separately. A decent attempt at medical non fiction.
Was this review helpful?