Reader reviews and comments on Fever, plus links to write your own review.

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Fever by Mary Beth Keane X
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2013, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2014, 320 pages

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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.

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.
Liz C. (Kalamazoo, MI)

Fever
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.
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.
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.

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.
Karen R

Fascinating story of 'Typhoid Mary'
A fascinating but sad story of Mary Mallon, popularly known as Typhoid Mary, thought to be responsible for infecting dozens with typhoid although she showed no sign of it herself. As a cook for multiple families, it was thought Mary spread this contagion via food she cooked. Mary ends up being taken by force, isolated, prodded, tested, and treated like an outcast. The health department of the times went well outside of what are normal boundaries today. Although it is written that Mary never believed she was a carrier, I find that hard to believe as facts are rolled out. How many people have to die in your wake in order for you to accept that you may be connected? We are talking 50 people reported affected by her direct contact. So was she a villain or a victim? I guess we will never know for sure, but I have a clear opinion now after reading this novel
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.
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.

Beyond the Book:
  A Short History of Typhoid

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