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Editorial 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 Ratings

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Story

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  • Mom/RN
  • San Antonio, TX
  • 06-30-15

Engaging; American history & love story

Insightful look into the world of immigrants in the early 1900s, I love how it is told from Mary's perspective, feels realistic and you understand what she was likely thinking. The story helps to bring this interesting part of medical history to Into your own frame of reference. Ultimately a tale of human experience and one woman's success, grief, love and unfortunate fate as an outcast of society. Also fantastic narration with the different accents, Irish, German, Italian and so on.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • SydSavvy
  • PARIS, TX, United States
  • 12-09-13

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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NOT Historical But Is Fiction

This is indeed an interesting and well-written piece of fiction. However, even the most cursory dip into the available information on the real "Typhoid Mary" and you'll be shocked at how little of this book is based or even near the actual story. In fact, it's so far from Mary's story that I must drop stars because it pretends to be historical fiction.

Reading the other reviews really gave me a chill in that people believe they are reading history. The author borrowed a name and used a story as a backdrop to create a piece of fiction. It's disappointing. She could have called this Gonorrhea Sally and it would have been equally accurate.

So yes, the author can write an engaging story. It's a novel. But when a story is so far from reality I think it is inappropriate to use actual names. There is just too much distortion. The story would have been as good under a totally different name and then would not be guilty of gross manipulation of history.

By the way, the real story is better.

Read the book and enjoy it but don't think you're reading an historical novel. Even the language is wrong for the time.

17 of 23 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Pam James
  • Lawrence, KS United States
  • 08-24-13

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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 !

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • W
  • Garner, NC, United States
  • 04-08-13

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful