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Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl Kindle Edition
Emotive and inspiring - this book will touch you like no other.
"It's too late for me, but maybe it will help some of the others." ~ Catherine Wolfe Donohue
From the Publisher
How much of that story is true?
Historical fiction authors are often asked 'How much of that story is true?' Catherine Donohue's story in Luminous is based on newspapers, personal letters, and even a visit to Ottawa, Illinois. Each chapter in Luminous begins with a historical quote from one of the historical figures featured in the novel or from a scientist or journalist of the era. This constantly reminds readers that this story, while written as biographical fiction, is true. When you feel yourself getting angry at the actions (or lack thereof) of Radium Dial or you can't quite believe the suffering the women endured, remember that it is not a figment of imagination but unchangeable history.
Catherine's story will break your heart and make you cry, but you will also be inspired by her faith, perseverance, and unwavering love for her friends and family.
- ASIN : B085ZWBFCQ
- Publication date : June 5, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 829 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 321 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #236,307 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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What an amazing read! Samantha Wilcoxson excels at taking the reader to the scene, whether it’s a living room, paint room floor, or courthouse. Dialogue flows naturally. She has a gift for knowing how much detail to add without overwhelming her reader.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone with any interest in American social history, early 20th century history, or women’s history.
A quick but heartbreaking read, this novel is filled with sumptuous detail. I would avoid if you are squeamish though as she pulls no punches in what these girls went through.
Top reviews from other countries
I knew vaguely about radium and its poison, but I had never read about it. The book is easy to read and follows Catherine through her work at the factory and her friends and later her family and ongoing medical problems. Its a story that should be told about workers who were not protected while other people made money from them and filled their pockets. The sadness in the pages reflected in her life. The shocking medical problems she endured and how she tried to hide them from other, shunned by society and made to feel silly and pestering by Drs ( obviously paid off ,) The trail and all that entailed for her painful journey ( i felt myself wince at times)and having to hear her prognosis .. Knowing that her children where at risk just by being close to her, really made me so sad. Her friends and the medical problems they endured. That she knew her body was destroyed and the badness she could smell, still trying to hide or mask her problems.
The author beautifully describes her everyday life and makes it easy to form an attachment to Catherine it tore at my heartstrings throughout the book but more so in the last pages and there was an ending I knew was coming but beautifully portrayed and peaceful. I cried the whole last pages of the book, my hubby asking if I was ok ! Loved it well done !
A history, that should not be forgotten. A history, that may repeat itself if we’re not careful.
Luminous retells the story of the Radium Girls. Wilcoxson researched her story with tremendous attention to detail and painted the heartbreaking story of a woman that was so very delicate and frail but at the same time tremendously strong.
Whereas the first half of the book proves to be a fairly easy read, I can only recommend having an endless supply of tissues at hand for what is to come. The cruelty of mankind is endless. Capitalism is a man-made monster.
Catherine Donohue, who is the main protagonist, along with her friends Charlotte and Pearl and other former factory workers fight a David vs Goliath-like fight that at times reminds of Don Quichotte's war against windmills. Doctors are afraid to give the correct diagnosis, pieces of evidence disappear, worker rights do not exist, treated as outcasts in their hometown. How does one win a war like that when one is simultaneously fighting against time?
This is a gripping read, a story that needs to be known. That deserves to be heard.
Catherine is an ordinary girl, living with her aunt and uncle in their own small house in Ottawa, Illinois. Theirs is a humble background, and once she's old enough, Catherine seeks employment to help with the household costs.
When Radium Dial, a company producing illuminated clocks, opens in town in 1922, Catherine, then aged 19, applies and is soon hired, together with many other young women. Theirs is regarded as skilled work, and the pay is above average. Everyone is excited.
The girls are shown how to dip their paint brushes into the radium mixture, then, to ensure an even, thin paint job on the dials, they had to hold the tip of the brush to their pursed lips to make the tip as pointy as possible. The overseer tells them it's all safe, of course, and the manager brushes off any questions with light jokes.
As the years go by, we follow Catherine's working and social life. She is content. Evenings are often spent with friends, listening to music or chatting, having a relaxed drink now and then. Meeting boys. The ordinary life of a young woman.
Their workplace is soon covered in a find dust, which makes their hair and clothes sparkle. Some paint their nails with the exciting new mixture, delighted to see how they glow in the dark.
But it is after a few years that the first of her friends and acquaintances begin to suffer. Their teeth are falling out and their mouths are filled with ulcers; they suffer fevers and severe weight loss, and often they miscarry. Some develop fast-growing tumours. But causes are noted as TB or cancer, and no doctor in town dares to link their deaths to radium.
As young women die, and Catherine starts to feel unwell, the first doubts creep in. When, in 1928, the case of five women against a radium company in New Jersey goes to court, people begin to talk, but still Radium Dial insist their product is perfectly safe. Everyone is relieved.
As one of the biggest employers in town, the company has the support from the mayor and all the local doctors who refuse to see the correlation between the girls as one after the other develops symptoms. Some die a very painful death, and their bodies are buried swiftly, but still no one speaks up. This is a sad indictment of how money and power can lead to deaths of workers with tacit approval from local government. Money talks.
Catherine marries her husband, Thomas Donohue, in 1932, and soon gives birth to two children, a boy and a girl, despite her declining health. By that time, she'd been ’let go’ by Radium Dial as her limp worried other women working there. Her condition worsening, she is soon unable to care for her children, something that must have left her heartbroken.
As her health declines, she and her husband seek help from doctors further afield. Some agree it might be radium, but still no one wants to blame the company. Eventually, after many years, she finds a lawyer, Leonard Grossman from Chicago, who is prepared to forego a fee in order to raise awareness of Radium Dial's diabolical practices. At times, even he loses faith in the legal system, as Radium Dial appeal against every decision. Until they are finally denied by the Supreme Court and ordered to pay reparations.
Sadly, Catherine died before receiving any payments, and as the company had moved their assets to a different branch, the payout was pitiful, not even remotely covering the cost of her healthcare which had seen Tom and Catherine take on a mortgage against the house she'd inherited from her aunt and uncle.
But as a result of her brave persistence, the case raised awareness of the dangers of radium, and of exploitation of workers by greedy corporations to the detriment of their health. Soon after, the first workers rights laws were introduced.
In taking us through Catherine's pitifully short life full of pain, Ms Wilcoxson has created a moving tale of young hope dashed, of slow, debilitating illness, and of corporate arrogance. With great compassion, the author shows Catherine's suffering, but also her stubborn bravery in face of pain and certain death. It took guts to take on a company like Radium Dial, so revered in the upper circles of Ottawa, Ill. Many girls didn't dare speak out for fear of losing their job, and eventually they died sad, agonising deaths.
Reading this novel was the first I'd heard about the Radium Girls. The term itself doesn't convey the horrors they must have felt, the pain and debilitation. And the lack of public support, rather finding themselves ostracised for daring to accuse a well-respected business. They must have felt so alone, so abandoned.
You'll need plenty of tissues when reading. I got through several packs. But this story isn't over once you finish the book. It stays with you. It makes you angry and sad at the same time. And you cry for all those lost lives, all unnecessarily. They were young girls full of hope of fun, marriage, children, one day becoming grandmothers, maybe travel. Alas, most did not live to see their children grow up – if the youngsters survived at all.
Meanwhile, the company's legal eagles sought to secure their losses, and there was nothing anyone could do. Today, there are still companies abusing employees (long working hours without breaks or zero-hour contracts, for example). Their methods have changed, but profit rules as it has always done. That's the depressing truth.
As for Catherine, over eighty years later, her body is still glowing in its lead-lined coffin, encased in concrete. I wonder when she will finally find peace.
Luminous is a gripping fictional account of Catherine Donohue's life, told with such passion, honesty and empathy, it stays with you for a long time. And perhaps that's a good thing. It makes us listen up.
I can't recommend this novel highly enough. A must-read, it is my Book of the Year.