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Lora O. (Antioch, CA)
Rough Beginnings of the American Public Health System
I have a bookshelf of books on various diseases, both non-fiction and fiction and I understand the causes of typhoid, but I never thought of what it might feel like to be a healthy carrier of such a deadly disease until I read Mary Beth Keane's chilling and moving novel about Mary Mallon, aka "Typhoid Mary". I felt I could relate to this amazing, scrappy, intelligent, hard working woman, who fought to develop a career and rise above poverty by becoming a talented and innovative cook for wealthy families. The author so achingly described the shunning and ostracism of Mary and how bewildered she was, knowing she was a good, moral, talented and healthy woman who couldn't imagine she could be the cause of death of those around her.
Liz C. (Kalamazoo, MI)
The author's vivid description of early 1900 streets of New York were amazing. The portrayal of medical science at the turn of that century, fumbling it's way to an understanding of the cause of disease and the beginning of the public health system was well researched and well drawn. But as the men around Mary were so dismissive and arrogant and unable or uninterested in helping Mary to understand the transmission of typhoid, I think the author also did a poor job of explaining typhoid's history and transmission.
Apart and separate from the typhoid, I think this book stands as on of the best books about Irish immigrants that I have ever read. The characters were wonderful and believable and Mary's story was truly heartbreaking.
I want to recommend this book to my book club and think there are interesting medical issues that would make for a delightful discussion.
Mary Beth Keane has created an intriguing, empathetic portrait of "Typhoid Mary" in Fever. Mary Mallon is a hard working, independent, talented and sympathetic character. I also found the story of Mary's fictional (?) and troubled lover, Alfred, and their relationship captivating. Keane brings the neighborhoods and people of early twentieth century New York alive in this novel. If you enjoy good writing, historical fiction and strong women characters I highly recommend Fever.
Lynne G. (rockville, MD)
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
Fever is a remarkable book. The author's characters are so real that they remain with you after you have put down the book. Moreover, you wonder what they are doing while you are away from them. She has conjured up long gone people and brought them back to life. Her writing is beautiful and she has great empathy for her characters. Although it is a difficult read because of the many hardships they face, you will gain perspective on lives of immigrants, appreciation for how far medical science has come and you will feel very grateful to your ancestors who made the trip to America under very difficult circumstances. I highly recommend this book and author.
Peggy K. (Long Beach, CA)
On the surface here you have a simple story of a young Irish woman trying to make good in America. A good read but this isn't just any young woman, this is the woman we all know now as Typhoid Mary. The book fictionalizes her personal life using the facts of her medical history. That is what makes it the most interesting and what will generate discussion with book clubs and schools hopefully. There are a whole list of questions that could be generated by the actions taken against Mary. I enjoyed that part of the book more really and though it took Mary most of her life it seems to realize how wrong she had been I wonder how most readers will feel about what was done to her. This book would definitely be a valuable tool in schools discussing medical ethics and the rights of patients and the public.
Mary M. (Lexington, KY)
Typhoid Mary's Story
"Fever" is a fascinating fictional account of the woman known as Typhoid Mary. The story is told from Mary's point of view and you get a real sense of who she was and how being labeled a typhoid carrier affected her. Ms. Keane does a wonderful job of humanizing Mary. The descriptions of early New York and the people who lived there bring the story to life. Mary's actions can be interpreted many ways making this an excellent book for book clubs. I really enjoyed this book.
Paul R. (Albuquerque, NM)
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
Heart wrenching and dark but I was unable to put book down. The historical setting is a fascinating time in history - amidst the churning and changing of bustling New York City is the main character trying to find understanding and meaning and some element of peace in a world where she unwittingly has become an angel of death.
Debi B. (Charleston, SC)
Fever ~ Mary Beth Keane
Fever is the story of Mary Mallon: Typhoid Mary, the Germ Woman. She was a head-strong Irish immigrant who wanted to succeed in America as a domestic cook. She was a carrier of typhoid fever, which she didn't seem to acknowledge or want to admit to the deadly consequences of being a carrier of the disease. At times I found myself angry at Mary, but mostly, I felt sorry for her.
Deanna W. (Port Jefferson, NY)
I really liked this book and found it hard to put down. Mary Beth Keane writes in such a way it was like watching her movie, rather than reading her book. I didn't want it to end.
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.