The year is 1871, and the place is Bush Hill, Philadelphia—home to the Baldwin Locomotive Works and a massive, gothic prison, home to William Quinn and his Ma, Essie, barely surviving in the wake of family tragedy. Pa Quinn is doing time in the penitentiary. Brother Francis has been murdered by a cop. Ma has lost something that she can’t forgive herself for, and William, fourteen, has been left to manage. Featuring a best friend named Career, a goat named Daisy, and a blowzy who goes by the name of Pearl, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent captures the rhythms and smells of an extraordinary era and is flavored by the oddities of historic personalities and facts. Terrible accidents will happen and miraculous escapes. Shams masquerade as the truth. And readers of Dangerous Neighbors will finally learn just who this boy with a talent for saving lost animals is, and how he learned the art of rescue.

Praise for Dr. Radway

Named to Kirkus Best Children's Books of 2013. See my link of joy

Nominated for a 2013 Cybils Award! 

Winner of the Parrott Library Honor Award. 

STARRED Kirkus Review:
Kephart has crafted a deeply satisfying tale that’s richly evocative of its time and place.

Playing masterfully with words, knitting them into new and deliciously expressive forms, Kephart’s story is one of loss and then redemption. William Quinn is only 14. With his father in the Cherry Hill prison and his genially wayward older brother, Francis, recently beaten to death by a brutal policeman, his mother has ground herself into unbearable, paralyzing grief, and the boy has to find a way to save them both. He has help from many: Career, his cheerfully ambitious best friend; Pearl, a good-hearted prostitute; Molly, a neighbor child who’s deeply smitten with Career; a wayward goat named Daisy; and the abiding memory of Francis. Gradually, William finds a way to make right some terrible wrongs that are only revealed at a perfectly measured pace. Stark, spare illustrations provide an effective counterpoint to the flowing, poetic language. Against the 1871 Philadelphia setting (five years before the related Dangerous Neighbors, 2010), a faultlessly depicted world of sound, energy and ample filth, the fully developed characters of William and Career are trapped in a bleakly hopeless situation. But they never fully give up hoping. Like the very best of historical fiction, this effort combines a timeless tale with a vividly recreated, fascinating world.

An outstanding and ultimately life-affirming tale. (Historical fiction. 11 & up)

School Library Journal
Read the entire review here.

Philadelphia Inquirer Review
"The bare bones of Beth Kephart's new story sound modern, but this bright, burning novel—intended for a young adult audience but powerful enough to engage any adult—is set in the Philadelphia of 1870. Using surprising period details and a gorgeous turn of phrase, Kephart has called forth an interesting time in our city's history and made it live again for just a moment." — Katie Haegele, Philadelphia Inquirer 

Bookslut Review/Colleen Mondor
n Beth Kephart's Dangerous Neighbors, a young man, William, who acted as a bit of an "animal whisperer," was introduced. Kephart's affection for the character led her to write a novel set five years earlier that tells his story and Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent is the bracing result. Dark and brooding, Dr. Radway's takes readers to the harsh streets of 1871 Philadelphia, where a poor family can lose a father to political machinations that send him to prison and a son can be murdered at the hands of the law.

Kephart places her characters firmly within the territory of BBC America's Copper here (except it's not Five Points), and William's life is grim. His mother is nearly destroyed by the loss of husband and son, his father toils in prison, longing for the sound of freedom's whistle through the bars (shades of Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison), and William is sworn to avenge his brother, while also struggling to save his mother, perhaps through a miracle liquid like the one that shares the book's title.

There are moments of kindness and levity, but still and all this is a work that pulls no punches about just how much poverty sucks. William is smart and his friend "Career" is determined and yet the reader knows their options are limited by circumstances they did not choose but must wrestle with nonetheless. Poor is poor, and fighting your way out of it in that particular time and place seems impossible.

Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent is about city streets and searches for hope and a lost goat and lost dogs and big plans and those who are stuck in a gutter life but still extend a hand to help others get out. My only complaint involves the physical design of the book, which sends the text deep into the binding and forces a near breaking of the spine in order to read. Fortunately, William's voice breaks through the page with ease, and readers will overcome this minor annoyance to share in his struggles and triumphs.

Philly.com/Nathaniel Popkin Review
"One of Kephart’s gifts in her ongoing written exploration of Philadelphia is the capacity, and the willingness, to look on all that’s here with honesty, to allow for confusion and contradiction, for might and violence all at once. A writer does so by loving her characters, even the rotten ones, even the city so sour it might burn. And by bathing it, as only this one can, in fullness of breath." — Nathaniel Popkin, Philly.com

Read the Montgomery News feature story on Dr. Radway, here.

The Reading Tub
"I loved this book...." The Reading Tub

Cleaver Magazine Review
As fourteen-year-old William goes in search of what has been taken from his family and as he thinks about what he is missing (including a murdered brother and a father in prison), we see that a great deal of what is loved can be recovered. William internalizes his brother Francis’s voice and can imagine what Francis would say to him at an important moment. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent shines as a novel about grief itself, suggesting that in thinking about what we miss, we keep what’s missing alive. — Michelle Fost, Cleaver Magazine

This Too Review
That is what I love, love, love about this book.  The fullness and richness of this writhing adventure. Each sentence swells with the endurance of characters that are, in many ways, running on empty, past empty, but with their hearts bursting full at their worn seams. — Melissa Sarno

2 Heads Together Review
What both books do so well is describe one city, Philadelphia of the 1870s, although two different worlds. Both books delve into their main characters, William and Katherine, making them come alive. And both books use language as only Beth Kephart uses language.

It was a luxury reading the books one after the other, because it highlights the contrasts that otherwise would have been hidden. So, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent and then Dangerous Neighbors. The one-two punch in books. — Ed Goldberg, 2HeadsTogether

In this exceptionally-researched novel targeted toward the tween/young adult audience, Beth Kephart captures not only the sights and sounds of Philadelphia during this industrial age, but also the language of the time. One of her many talents as a writer is her consistent ability – in every book she writes – to put her reader in the scene alongside her characters. (That is also why it isn’t necessary to have a familiarity with Philadelphia when reading a Beth Kephart book, but is also the same reason that doing so is an absolute treat for this Philadelphia native.) In Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent, William Sulit’s illustrations add to that experience nicely while lending the book an appropriately somber tone. 

History comes alive in this book. As do reminders about the things – family, home, friendship, truth – that matter most in life. —Melissa Firman

Savvy Verse & Wit Review
Kephart brings home the pressure of change and darkness with the thrumming of the machines, the locomotive commotion, and the constant mechanization of the city pounding in the background.  While the industrialization signifies a change and progress that can be beneficial and create opportunity, there also is the darker underbelly of those changes that must be dealt with — the corruption and the abuse of those willing to take advantage of their position and of others.  There is a keen juxtaposition of this in the characters of Officer Kernon and the Ledger’s editor Mr. Childs — one who abuses his position to get what he wants and the other who offers his aid in the form of mentoring and money to young men in need of guidance. — Serena Agusto-Cox

Sarah Laurence Blog
"DRSR is a Dickensian story with a touch of Steinbeck's Cannary Row and gorgeous illustrations by William Sulit, Beth's talented husband." — Sarah Laurence

Read an excerpt:
Go here to read a few pages.....

“Conjuring sharp, meticulously detailed images of fair exhibitions…Kephart evokes a tantalizing
portrait of love, remorse, and redemption.” — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“It’s a beautifully crafted, carefully researched historical novel that captures the essence
of a single historic event while exploring the universality of love, grief, guilt, and the mysterious
twin connection.” — Booklist

“While the story is compelling enough for readers who enjoy historical fiction, this books’
excellence lies in the subtle descriptions nestled in Kephart’s writing. It is a book beautifully
done, the complex human emotions of heartbreak and hope exquisitely intertwined.”
— Library Media Connection

“... a tender, quiet work of historical fiction...exquisitely crafted...as lovely in its imagery as
it is tragic...” — Kirkus

Coming from New City Community Press/Temple University Press, May 2013.

For the story behind the story, go here.  

To read two brief excerpts and view an illustration, go here.

For a self-imposed interview, see below:

What is the working title of your book?
The title of this book, for real and for good, is Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent.  See the cover above?  We're not changing it. 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

William, my hero, is obsessed with the medicines of the time, for he is searching for a cure for his heartbroken mother.  Dr. Radway lived in Manayunk and his Sarsaparilla Resolvent was world-renowned for curing everything, perhaps even sleep insufficiency, in which case I am ordering me up a bottle.  Today we know this medicinal magic as root beer.  Does anybody have a glass of ice handy? 

What genre does your book fall under? 

This lady, who is not a fan of labeling fiction, would, if forced to do it, describe Dr. Radway as historical fiction for middle grade/young adult/adult readers with two teen male protagonists at its heart.  Simply and non-boastfully put, Dr. Radway is a good book for everyone.  I am so good at non-boastful. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

There's a young prostitute, named Pearl, who is integral to this story.  She's tough, she's big-hearted, and she saves the day.  Jennifer Lawrence is my Pearl.  William has a grieving, beautiful mother—Marisa Tomei or Amy Adams.  As for William and his best friend, Career, Alex Shaffer (Win Win) and Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games)  Josh looks exactly like my Career (so long as you give him a pipe to suck on).  Alex was brilliant in Win Win, which is, by the way, one of my favorite indies and the brain child of my friend Mary Jane Skalski.  But I digress.  There are others in the story—the ghost of an older brother (not yet cast), a father in prison (Sean Penn, but younger), and a little sprite of a girl who lives next door.  Let's give that role to Mackenzie, the youngest dancer in that whacky reality TV show, Dance Moms.  She's so cute I have to stop myself from reaching through the TV and pinching her cheeks.  But why am I watching that show anyway?  And, since we are on the topic, Are mothers really like that?  Have you ever met anyone like any of those moms?  Okay, back to the topic.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

Since this book is a prequel to Dangerous Neighbors, my 1876 Philadelphia Centennial novel, I have been working with my lead character, William, for more than seven years.  A requited love affair, fictionally speaking.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I try not to compare.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 

My love for Philadelphia history.  My absolute love for William.  I could not let him go. 


  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP