Deanna W. (Port Jefferson, NY)
This fictionalized biography puts a human face on Typhoid Mary. We learn about the woman behind the facts and rumors. We also get a vision of every day life in the streets and tenements of early 1900's in NYC. The story is told from Mary's perspective as she comes to terms with her tragic situation.
Helen S. (Sun City West, AZ)
A Fascinating woman
The author of Fever successfully tells the troubling story of Mary Mallon, the infamous Typhoid Mary, as she fills the background with the sights, sounds, smells, and lives of the people living in New York City in the early 1900s. As I read, I had conflicting feelings about Mary and the Health Department. My heart empathized with Mary Mallon's fear and anger when she was pursued and quarantined as a public health danger, but my head told me that Dr. Soper had to do all he could to avoid widespread outbreaks of typhoid fever. The complex and compelling story of Mary Mallon is well-written and could create lively discussions in a book group.
Tilli F. (Florence, MA)
Fever - a book for those who like history
This is a fine book. I accepted it because I knew nothing about Typhoid Mary except her name, and wondered why her memory had lasted so long. And now I know. Mary Mallon endured a tough life and survived despite it. But beyond that, this book gives a vivid and informative portrayal about that period in our history. For instance did you know that there was a small island in New York Harbor called North Brother to which they sent all TB victims? That's where Mary was sent for years.
Her "husband" Alfred is also vibrantly portrayed. An alcoholic with nowhere near Mary's strength of character, he loved her and stayed with her for the most part, and seemed mostly bewildered by her. She did not seem to love him but was loyal and dependent which was unusual to the rest of her nature.The author does not seem to fault Mary for the sickness and death she caused, but instead blames Mary's ignorance. She could not understand how she could cause illness when she was herself well, and the notion of 'carrier' was not well understood at the time. All in all a well-written and gripping narrative which brings to life a little-known period of our history.
Kathleen S. (St Louis, MO)
Fever: A Love Story
This novel is based upon the life of Mary Mallon, known to history as Typhoid Mary. I titled this review a love story as it's the story of a 2-fold love; Mary's love of cooking and her love of ne'er-do-well Alfred, her long-time companion.
Mary used her talents as a cook to raise herself up on the domestic service ladder even after she was discovered to be an "asymptomatic carrier" of typhoid. Since cooks were more highly regarded and better paid than other domestics, she time and again went back to the craft even after she was put into isolation in 1907 and banned from cooking for others.
Mary could not keep away from her lover Alfred anymore than she could keep away from cooking. Their relationship continued on even thru Alfred's betrayal.
"Fever" gives us strong descriptions of early 20th century life in New York, especially for the lower classes who were forced to toil in upper class homes or in sweat shops for subsistence wages.
This fictionalized account of Mary depicts her as a strong immigrant woman who battled for a better life for herself. This book would be suitable for book clubs or those who enjoy reading about early 20th century life in New York.
Rebecca J. (Knoxville, TN)
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
A wonderful book for both fiction and historical fiction fans, the story is about Typhoid Mary (who I didn't even know actually existed). You alternately like, hate and feel sorry for Mary who, although a smart woman, cannot accept the fact that she is a healthy carrier of typhoid. The fact that she cooks for a living makes for a dangerous situation. Rich in characters and in setting, this book is a winner.
Jean N. (New Richmond, OH)
I was totally taken by this book- from the opening pages, until the very end.
Mary was so strong and courageous. I admired her as a person, yet I had serious questions about some of her choices.
The descriptions of the early 1900's in New York City were fascinating. Learning the whole story of Typhoid Mary was eye opening.
I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction. Fever would also be a great book for book groups- there are so many issues to discuss and debate.
I have been an avid reader since I was a child. Fever is a book- and Mary is a woman- that I would classify as "unforgettable".
Ruth O. (Downingtown, PA)
Typhoid Mary! Germ-woman! Mary Mallon was called these things and more in the early 20th century. This novel was a fictionalized account of the life of the first known 'healthy carrier' of typhoid in an era of rapidly advancing science. Mary was a cook who infected numerous persons with typhoid, some of whom died. This book humanized her but left me with mixed emotions about her. She was clearly a victim in many aspects, by being a disease carrier and by her lack of advanced education, although she was literate. The scientists and doctors of the day basically stripped away her rights without providing her with a real understanding of why. However, in the beginning she was belligerent and didn't make an effort to understand, which resulted in the infections and deaths of even more people. The novel also gave a glimpse of the tumultuous relationship Mary had with her 'significant other' Alfred. This relationship provided a secondary story that painted a picture of drug addiction to opium and morphine in the days before doctors realized that what they prescribed caused so much harm. Laws were enacted prior to World War 1 to prevent such addictions.
I enjoyed this book very much as I learned who Typhoid Mary really was and also learned about how science advanced into the modern era. I think that this novel would be great book club material.