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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.
Helen S. (Sun City West, AZ)
A Fascinating woman
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.
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.
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.
Rebecca J. (Knoxville, TN)
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
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.
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.
Darcy C. (San Diego, CA)
What a Wretched & Wonderful Book!
We've all heard about Typhoid Mary, but who was she? Was she real or just a made-up character? Well, she WAS real and this fabulous book tells her story. This is a woman with moxy and self-confidence (at least outwardly) and stamina that enabled her to last through six day work weeks and 12 hours per day. Not only did I learn about this tremendous woman, Mary Mallone, I also was put right into the streets and tenements of the early 1900's. Life was so hard and so dirty and it's hard to understand that life was not even 100 years ago. I loved this book and learning about Mary and it also was a superb historical-fiction. Get this book! It was an absorbing read. I gobbled the words down, typhoid be darned!!
Elise B. (Macedonia, OH)
I have heard the label "Typhoid Mary" before, but had never actually thought much about the fact that there was an actual person that carried this nickname. I felt that Mary Beth Keane did an excellent job weaving fact and fiction to profile this infamous woman. I found it just as interesting to read about life in New York City in the early 1900's. My great-grandparents were also immigrants in New York City during this same time period and I have a greater appreciation of what their life might have been like. I would highly recommend this book for book clubs because I think it could open up a lot of discussion about various of ethical issues; some of which we face today i.e. AIDS and Hepatitis.
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.