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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 (332 )
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4.2 (305 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 05-18-14
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 05-18-14 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One or the Other, Please"

    The historical points of this topic (typhoid fever) interests me both as a nurse and as a person. But there was little history here. The fiction part was barely of interest. I can only imagine the horror of a young immigrant girl being accused of causing death wherever she went. And then to be quarantined for years with no legal recourse!! How frightening and frustrating! But the author chooses to dwell on Alfred at length ...why? Narration was excellent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    judy Austin, Tx, United States 03-08-14
    judy Austin, Tx, United States 03-08-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Stubborn Typhoid Mary"
    What did you love best about Fever?

    I thought the author did a good job of portraying what Mary thought of the claim by the public health officer that she was a carrier of Typhoid. She was stubborn and in denial about it. Yet at the same time I felt sorry for her.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Fever?

    I was shocked at her complete denial of her part in putting people at risk. The description of her cooking at a bakery and in the hospital, tasting food and such was scary.


    What about Candace Thaxton’s performance did you like?

    Very good! Really enjoyed her various accents. Each character was well represented.


    If you could take any character from Fever out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I would like to take Mary out to dinner. I would like to hear what she understood about Typhoid and what she had been told by the health authorities and doctors. I would like to give her other examples of people with the same problem and some positive coping examples.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Arizona, USA 02-16-14
    Amazon Customer Arizona, USA 02-16-14 Member Since 2013
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    3
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    Story
    "Typhoid Mary"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Fever to be better than the print version?

    Candace Thaxton did a fantastic job with the accents of the characters. It added interest to the story.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I didn't know anything about Mary Mallon going into this story. She was a stubborn Irishwoman who didn't believe that she could be healthy and still infect people. For the most part I did not like her. However, the things done to her were not nice either. The turn of the 20th century was a hard time for foreigners with few available jobs and places to live. Mary tried hard to better herself in terrible circumstances. Then she was forced to live in the asylum for years without knowing what could become of her.


    What does Candace Thaxton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    She brought out Mary's frustration with the men in her life. Alfred and her employers could be difficult.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Much of the story made me angry. The doctors inability to make Mary understand that she was a danger was irritating. But Mary's stubbornness about her impact on others was my main issue. She went so far as to change her name and sneak into jobs in order to defy what she was told, but didn't believe. I am glad that she questioned her role in making people sick. I just wish she had acted on it.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 12-09-13
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 12-09-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Great Narration, Excellent POV"

    This was very interesting and thought provoking. I love books that teach me while giving me a story to digest. Well written -- Mary is thoroughly believable as the character that she must have been, as is the man who is essentially her common law husband. Can you imagine being told that you are a disease carrier, so many have died because of you, and in a time when many didn't have much training, told that you can't do your job, the special job you are good at? Can you imagine being basically imprisoned without a trial? Can you imagine wondering, but not being really convinced, that you were responsible for many, many deaths? This book helped me really imagine all of that.

    Oh and the narrator, with her Irish defensive accent, was all that! Sounded perfect.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Berkeley, CA United States 11-12-13
    Amazon Customer Berkeley, CA United States 11-12-13 Listener Since 2007
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    "Great story, and awesome narration"
    If you could sum up Fever in three words, what would they be?

    Research well done


    What other book might you compare Fever to and why?

    It is hard to compare Fever to another book as it is uniquely its own story.


    Which character – as performed by Candace Thaxton – was your favorite?

    Anna Firth


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

    Anna Firth killing the pig and distributing it to her neighbors.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer MIDDLETOWN, Moldova, Republic of 10-25-13
    Amazon Customer MIDDLETOWN, Moldova, Republic of 10-25-13 Member Since 2010
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    "A Little Slow"

    Interesting story, but it tended to drag. Enjoyed the historical descriptions of this time period.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam James Lawrence, KS United States 08-24-13
    Pam James Lawrence, KS United States 08-24-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Good Historical Fiction"

    Keane offers a sympathetic portrayal of Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary. The story portrays early 20th Century New York and several important historical events seen through Mary's eyes.

    Mary's long-term relationship was probably total fiction, but it helped to provide a narrative that allowed the author to string together the events in Mary's life. I think I would have liked this fictional Mary better than the historical Mary.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Meghan United States 08-22-13
    Meghan United States 08-22-13 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Fascinating, but not an easy read"

    I did enjoy the book and thought the concept was amazing. I really enjoyed hearing what NYC was like back then and what it was like for Mary. However, it was not an easy listen. It was tedious in some places. I think it could've been shorter...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bkgrn Indianapolis, IN United States 07-01-13
    bkgrn Indianapolis, IN United States 07-01-13 Member Since 2011
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    "I didn't see what all the fuss was about..."

    I bought this book mainly due to the large number of positive reviews, and the fact that it has some medical history in it, which I enjoy reading about. My main problem with this book is that the characters were totally unlikeable, particularly Mary. I had to force myself to finish it because I didn't want to waste my credit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S United States 05-26-13
    S United States 05-26-13 Member Since 2001

    Retired reading, English, & math teacher. Survivor of rear-ending on Channel 5 bridge in Florida Keys that resulted in 10 day coma&rehab,

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    "Keeps attention and gives facts and news"

    Mary liked being a cook, but then people started getting sick. She thought it was unfair to isolate her for a time. The novel covers what she lived like, where, and what her relationships were. Well-researched and written. Seems like it could be accurate as possible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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