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Fever: A Novel | [Mary Beth Keane]

Fever: A Novel

Mary Mallon was a courageous, headstrong Irish immigrant woman who bravely came to America alone, fought hard to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic service ladder, and discovered in herself an uncanny, and coveted, talent for cooking. Working in the kitchens of the upper class, she left a trail of disease in her wake, until one enterprising and ruthless "medical engineer" proposed the inconceivable notion of the "asymptomatic carrier" - and from then on Mary Mallon was a hunted woman.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, March 2013 - Was Mary Mallon just a scapegoat? A victim of a paranoid society willing to vilify and discard a poor, Irish immigrant and domestic worker based solely on shoddy science and sensationalism? Fever tells the story as “Typhoid Mary” may have told it herself. Through her eyes we get an insider’s view of early 20th Century New York City and of the perfect storm she was swept up in. Not a meek, unsophisticated victim at all, Mary is a woman ahead of her time in many ways: unmarried by choice, a bread winner, a skilled cook and a fighter. She does not simply accept her diagnosis, and by questioning the science behind the accusations she adds pressure on the doctors to better understand the spread of disease, and on the legal system to address issues of public health and civil liberties. This is historical fiction at its best. —Tricia, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

A bold, mesmerizing novel about the woman known as "Typhoid Mary", the first known healthy carrier of typhoid fever in the early 20th century - by an award-winning writer chosen as one of "5 Under 35" by the National Book Foundation.

Mary Mallon was a courageous, headstrong Irish immigrant woman who bravely came to America alone, fought hard to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic service ladder, and discovered in herself an uncanny, and coveted, talent for cooking. Working in the kitchens of the upper class, she left a trail of disease in her wake, until one enterprising and ruthless "medical engineer" proposed the inconceivable notion of the "asymptomatic carrier" - and from then on Mary Mallon was a hunted woman.

In order to keep New York's citizens safe from Mallon, the Department of Health sent her to North Brother Island where she was kept in isolation from 1907-1910. She was released under the condition that she never work as a cook again. Yet for Mary - spoiled by her status and income and genuinely passionate about cooking - most domestic and factory jobs were heinous. She defied the edict.

Bringing early 20th-century New York alive - the neighborhoods, the bars, the park being carved out of upper Manhattan, the emerging skyscrapers, the boat traffic - Fever is as fiercely compelling asTyphoid Mary herself, an ambitious retelling of a forgotten life. In the hands of Mary Beth Keane, Mary Mallon becomes an extraordinarily dramatic, vexing, sympathetic, uncompromising, and unforgettable character.

©2013 Mary Beth Keane (P)2013 Simon & Schuster Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (467 )
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4.3 (426 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer CA, United States 04-22-13
    Amazon Customer CA, United States 04-22-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Captivating Retelling"

    I haven’t written a book review in awhile but felt compelled to write this one. I enjoyed Mary Beth Keane’s the Walking People and once I heard the subject matter for this book, I was sold. A historic trial? A medical mystery? I couldn’t have picked a novel I more wanted to read.

    I hope that is not a spoiler to note that Mary Mallon was the first well known ‘healthy’ carrier of Typhoid Fever. She was asymptomatic and since little was known about how sickness spread, it was hard for people to recognize the health risk she posed. She was a cook and though out breaks of Typhoid seemed to follow her wherever she was employed; she refused to believe she could be the source of the fever. Even after she was confronted with the possibility that she was spreading the fever. She refused to cooperate. She continued to cook until she was arrested and deatined. She wasn’t released for two years and only after agreeing not to cook. Despite all this, she cooks again. Changes her name and continues to cook until she is recaptured.

    Enter Keane to deliver an entirely unexpected novelization of her life. The tendency to sort of side with Mary and vilify her treatment and compare it with others (non-working class males who may have received much better treatment) and conclude Mary was treated unfairly. Or try and convince readers that Mary’s recklessness led to unnecessary deaths even after the danger she posed to others was explained to her. Keane does something else. She seems to take both sides-- rallying a little for Mary and then highlighting her unsafe obstinacy. So the reader is both frustrated with and sympathetic towards, Mary.
    Keane once again plays with time beginning somewhere in the middle of Mary’s story and then hopping all around throughout her life similar to her The Walking People narrative. Maybe more successfully this time, but I am still unsure why authors belabor this technique when a simple straightforward arc would serve.

    What is known about Mary seems to all be spot on, but Keane adds a lot too. For instance additional deaths, a fabricated alcoholic live in lover, and a backstory are all provided. I’m torn too to what this all adds. A historical novelization works best for me when it holds as closely to the truth as possible. However these additive also provide period detail to further set Mary’s drama.

    I am beginning to realize it sounds as if I am conflicted about the book which I am not. I highly recommend it for any historical fiction fans. Mary’s story horrified me, disgusted me, and baffled me in turns. I was genuinely engaged in Mary’s story from the very first through the last page.

    And though the narrator slips in and out of an Irish accent inexplicably, she otherwise does a good job.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terri Leon-Benner 07-27-15 Member Since 2013

    TeLeBe

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    "Fascinating"

    Fever is a terrific historical & literary novel. Don't miss it! Ms. Thaxton's performance is a notable. She channeled Mary's vulnerability & obtuseness extremely well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lindamarie Palo Alto, CA 07-18-15
    lindamarie Palo Alto, CA 07-18-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Makes sense of the person Typhoid Mary"
    Would you listen to Fever again? Why?

    Fever makes the story of "Typhoid Mary" realistic and also brings up the human rights and gender issues surrounding this case. I assume that the research on the story is true even if the conversations and details fictionalized. This would be a good historic novel for young adults to understand some of the medical discovery and human rights issues surrounding this story. This is a great story to understand the development of research on infectious diseases.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Fever?

    The courtroom decision and the consequences for Mary.


    Have you listened to any of Candace Thaxton’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No have not listened to others


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The Italian widow and her 2 sons allowing Mary to live with them.


    Any additional comments?

    Typhoid Mary is usually discussed as an infectious disease and epidemiology story. I had known none of the details of this woman and the consequences of discovery of carriers. There are important lessons that can be learned from this story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kandi L. Johnson Floodwood, MN United States 07-16-15
    Kandi L. Johnson Floodwood, MN United States 07-16-15 Member Since 2015
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    "fascinating"

    I was engaged throughout. historical fiction at its best. I knew a bit of the story, but to hear it this way was wonderful. great performance as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisbeth Louisville, KY, United States 07-13-15
    Lisbeth Louisville, KY, United States 07-13-15

    Ce n'est pas grave!

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    "Fascinating"

    I enjoyed listening to this fascinating story about "Typhoid Mary" and NYC at the turn of the 20th century. The narrator was outstanding, with just enough expression, but not extreme or distracting. Excellent "Daily Deal".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dana Jackson OXFORD, GEORGIA, US 07-07-15
    Dana Jackson OXFORD, GEORGIA, US 07-07-15 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Entertaining, but not in a happy way"

    I enjoyed the book. A stronger Irish accent would have been cool, but it wasn't bad. I don't get that Mary didn't "get it" that she was killing people. That was frustrating to me. I would still recommend the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connie DURHAM, NC, United States 07-04-15
    Connie DURHAM, NC, United States 07-04-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Germ Woman"

    As I read about the life of Mary Mallon, at first I hated her, then was proud of her for being so ambitious, then felt sorry for her....then went on to repeat said feelings. I don't know what I'd do if I turned out to be a healthy carrier of typhoid fever! What a burden to bear your whole life! This woman, who came to be known as Typhoid Mary, was brash and bold and stubborn. Unpleasantly so. (Although today we would describe a woman like her as ambitious, breaking a glass ceiling!) But by the end, after she finally believed what the doctors had told her all along, she was almost to be pitied.
    The book brought early twentieth century New York City and Mary Mallon alive for me. I love to read about people who have lived interesting lives (mine is so dull!)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Norma Greenbelt, MD, USA 07-02-15
    Norma Greenbelt, MD, USA 07-02-15 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Tragic"

    It wasn't bad. In some ways tragic that a woman as apparently smart as Ms Mallon still didn't have the imagination to understand germs and therefore willfully put people in harms way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Waltham, MA, United States 07-02-15
    Mark Waltham, MA, United States 07-02-15 Member Since 2010

    MTF

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "interesting history; flawed novel"

    The first half of this novel moved back and forth in time. It covers the time Typhoid Mary is accused of spreading typhoid, including her lengthy forced quarantine and trial. More than half the book is a series of flashbacks about Mary's earlier life as an Irish immigrant, making it as a cook in America. These flashbacks seem random, sometimes going further back and sometimes later. This prevented me from entering the flow of this historical novel. The second half of the novel moves ahead linearly from the trial onward, and was much better. Mary's long term relationship with Alfred, a neer-do-well charismaic man, was one of the best parts of the book. Mary is not especially likeable, but she is an interesting and believable character. This book did a great job at capturing life for a single woman in NYC in the early 20th century, While this is a mixed review, I am glad I read this 3.5 star book. And I do find myself thinking a lot about the book when I am not reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Hirsch Denver, CO 07-01-15
    Mary Hirsch Denver, CO 07-01-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Found this a powerful story, beautifully narrated"

    I don't know which was more mesmerizing, Mary Mallon's perceptions of her own life as woven by Mary Beth Keane, or Candace Thaxton's lovely and insightful narration. Vivid historical detail helps the reader enter Mary's life as a working class immigrant with no financial or social safety net, burdened by a public accusation she did not understand or accept. A grim and troubling portrait of the times and one courageous but flawed woman.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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