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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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  •  
    Amazon Customer farmington hills, mi, United States 05-26-13
    Amazon Customer farmington hills, mi, United States 05-26-13

    Urban public librarian. Audiobook lover!

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    "Fever: a hot summer listen"

    I just finished listening to Fever by Mary Beth Keane, narrated by Candace Thaxton.

    Fever is a fictional account of the life of Mary Mallon (1869-1938) better known as Typhoid Mary. It's the the 27th book I've read (or listened to) in 2013 and so far my favorite.

    Keane brings Mary Mallon to life as a complex and even likeable character although as a cook and an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever Mary infects at least fifty people, at least three of whom die. After outbreaks are traced back to her, Mary is quarantined against her will on an island clinic for over two years and released only when she agrees never again to work as a cook.

    Mary is portrayed as realistically complicated in her fierce denial, good intentions, failures, doubts, financial struggles, and her role as enabler to her longtime live-in boyfriend.

    Keane is a master of description. I have a hunch that a couple of my book club friends might say there is too much description, but I would disagree. It is this element that transported me to early 20th century New York City where I felt a baby leave this world as I held it in my arms, bought a blue hat, hid from the authorities on a snow cold day, loved and hated and loved a man who was addicted to alcohol and then drugs, rationalized a return to my first-love - cooking, and finally accept my typhoid carrier status, my heart breaking under the weight of it.

    This book will haunt me for days.

    The many themes of Fever make it an ideal pick for a book club: the power of denial, forcible quarantine, co-dependency, this era of New York City.

    Candace Thaxton's narration is top-rate. As far as audiobooks go, perhaps my all-time favorite.

    Story: 5/5
    Writing: 5/5
    Narration: 5/5

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Spanaway, WA, United States 05-23-13
    Michael Spanaway, WA, United States 05-23-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Could Have Been Great..."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Listening to this book was not an entire failure but the story just never fufilled it's promise...


    Would you be willing to try another book from Mary Beth Keane? Why or why not?

    I would be willing to try another book from this author because this wasn't a complete loss.


    What about Candace Thaxton’s performance did you like?

    I thought Candace Thaxton was good, the story just didn't deliver.


    Did Fever inspire you to do anything?

    It inspired me to do a little research about Mary since I had heard the reference of Typhoid Mary before.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracey United States 05-18-13
    Tracey United States 05-18-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Wow!"

    Who knew! Not me. I thought this was a great story, outlining the life of a misunderstood woman in American history. Was it her fault? Was it the doctors? Or the rampant filth that lined the streets of New York? A fascinating look at medical practice in early stages of understanding immunity and the way disease is transmitted. Equally fascinating is the story of Mary as told by Keane. Top rate narration, too!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terri Macedon, NY, United States 05-02-13
    Terri Macedon, NY, United States 05-02-13 Member Since 2010

    Reading is the way I stay connected to the past, stimulating my imagination and curiosity; reminding me to keep history alive!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fever-Story of Typhoid Mary"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book only to someone who is interested in hearing a story about Typhoid Mary, but if that person wanted a stellar performance, I'd tell them to forget it.....because the narrator left quite a bit to be desired. She talked too fast, tried to sound like she had an Irish brogue, lacked emotion about 90% of the story, and made me think I was listening to a teenager who spoke like they were reading aloud, but did not FEEL the characters.....The story is fantastic, but I'd read it again before I'd listen to this narrator again. She was terrible!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Mary was my favorite character. I loved learning about what she went through to even get to America, and what she was accused of, and the discriminatory way she was treated. Talk about violation of someone's civil liberties!! Poor Mary was treated like a 3rd class citizen. If only this happened about 30 years later, after antibiotics were starting to be developed. I did feel Mary's pain and how hard she tried to keep herself strong. I admired her spirit and cannot blame her for one minute for going back to cooking, since it was never proven that SHE herself was then"cause" of those people's deaths from typhoid. What a tragic waste of a human being's life.....and the Department of Health owed her a huge apology. I hope no one ever forgets the sacrifice Mary made for science and the human condition!!


    How could the performance have been better?

    Having a person who didn't talk so fast, didn't fake an Irish accent, someone who put more emotion into the reading, and didn't just READ the story....If it weren't for the fact that I wanted to know more about the story behind Typhoid in the early 1900's , I would've asked for my money back on this one because of the terrible narration. She reminded me of how California teenagers used to enunciate their words back when "Valley Girl" talk was popular , I.e. "Oh my GOD!" Not the right person to read this story.


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

    Sloper, so I could pick his brain to get more scientific information from him about what he was studying, the progress in bacteriology being made at that time, and why they felt that Mary was such a high risk person, but the dairy farmer upstate wasn't , nor any of the other purported "carriers." ( I'm a medical professional so would be interested in this.)


    Any additional comments?

    Don't let that narrator read any more historical readings.....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheryl Torrance, CA, United States 04-24-13
    Cheryl Torrance, CA, United States 04-24-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Unexpected Intrigue"
    What made the experience of listening to Fever the most enjoyable?

    The story had me rivited.


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

    Mary Mallon


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    How would you feel being in Typhoid Mary's Shoes?


    Any additional comments?

    The whole experience just made me wish for more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet Sandy, UT, United States 04-20-13
    Janet Sandy, UT, United States 04-20-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Fascinating"

    A glimpse into the past. Not just her life, but the way people lived at the beginning of the 20th century. The story was very interesting, and was very well done. People really didn't expect much out of life back then. When you really look back into history realistically, it wasn't as romantic and exciting as we are lead to believe. Great Book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SHANNON STOW, OH, United States 04-18-13
    SHANNON STOW, OH, United States 04-18-13 Listener Since 2007
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    "captivating"
    If you could sum up Fever in three words, what would they be?

    Worth the listen!


    What did you like best about this story?

    It kept me listening till the end. I didnt want it to end.


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

    Mary was my favorite. did the Irish accent well.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The life and times of Typhoid Mary.


    Any additional comments?

    Definitely will recommend it !

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Chicago, IL, United States 04-13-13
    Jennifer Chicago, IL, United States 04-13-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Listen to this book!"
    Where does Fever rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I think this is my favorite audiobook I've every listened to. I normally have a hard time listening to audiobooks. I get distracted and have to go back and re-listen to parts of the book, or I can only listen to about 30 minutes at a time before I'm ready to do something else. Not this book. This one had me captivated and looking for opportunities to sneak in extra listening time during my day.


    What other book might you compare Fever to and why?

    The Chaperone because it's a novel based on true events. And Sin in the Second City because it made me really feel for (and sometimes take the side of) the person who was probably doing the wrong thing.


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

    Candace Thaxton's narration gave an added layer to the story. Her voices and accents for each character, especially Mary, made it easy to imagine that I was in the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W Garner, NC, United States 04-08-13
    W Garner, NC, United States 04-08-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wishing I could buy Mary Beth Keane a drink."

    What I was expecting was to be informed and perhaps educated a little about "Typhoid Mary". What I got was a totally satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable work of historical fiction.

    As a wanna-be writer, I am totally jealous of Keane's work. I would love to spend a few hours with her to compare notes and hear first-hand how she came to write such a wonderful novel. As a person who spends about three hours of research for every hour of writing, I totally appreciate what she has accomplished.

    You rock!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela BARRINGTON, RI, United States 04-08-13
    Pamela BARRINGTON, RI, United States 04-08-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating Story about an Interesting Woman"
    Any additional comments?

    I truly enjoyed this novel about Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary. I didn't know much about Mary before reading this book and I found it fascinating on many levels - Mary's life in NYC in the late 1800s and early 1900s, her inability to understand that she was a healthy "carrier" of a potentially deadly illness and the way the medical community dealt with outbreaks of illness in a time before vaccines and antibiotics. All of it fascinating. The narrator was easy to listen to and did a decent job with Mary's brogue. An enjoyable read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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