Fever by Mary Beth Keane
A Novel

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Fever manages to make you hope against hope, just like the real Mary must have, that the doctors are wrong; that the dozens of typhoid cases linked to her aren’t really her fault.
-Globe and Mail

Synopsis

Mary Beth Keane, named one of the 5 Under 35 by the National Book Foundation, has written a spectacularly bold and intriguing novel about the woman known as “Typhoid Mary,” the first person in America identified as a healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever.

On the eve of the twentieth century, Mary Mallon emigrated from Ireland at age fifteen to make her way in New York City. Brave, headstrong, and dreaming of being a cook, she fought to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic-service ladder. Canny and enterprising, she worked her way to the kitchen, and discovered in herself the true talent of a chef. Sought after by New York aristocracy, and with an independence rare for a woman of the time, she seemed to have achieved the life she’d aimed for when she arrived in Castle Garden. Then one determined “medical engineer” noticed that she left a trail of disease wherever she cooked, and identified her as an “asymptomatic carrier” of Typhoid Fever. With this seemingly preposterous theory, he made Mallon a hunted woman.

The Department of Health sent Mallon to North Brother Island, where she was kept in isolation from 1907 to 1910, then released under the condition that she never work as a cook again. Yet for Mary—proud of her former status and passionate about cooking—the alternatives were abhorrent. She defied the edict.

Bringing early-twentieth-century New York alive—the neighborhoods, the bars, the park carved out of upper Manhattan, the boat traffic, the mansions and sweatshops and emerging skyscrapers—Fever is an ambitious retelling of a forgotten life. In the imagination of Mary Beth Keane, Mary Mallon becomes a fiercely compelling, dramatic, vexing, sympathetic, uncompromising, and unforgettable heroine.
 

About Mary Beth Keane

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Mary Beth Keane was born in New York City to Irish parents and grew up in Rockland County, New York. She attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA in Fiction. In 2011, she was named by Julia Glass to the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35.” She lives in Pearl River, New York, with her husband and their two sons.
 
Published March 12, 2013 by Scribner. 401 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Fever
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Patrick Mcgrath on Mar 22 2013

It’s in the tender, detailed portrayal of willed ignorance collapsing in the face of truth that Mary Beth Keane has made of Mary Mallon’s life a fine novel of moral blindness, and also remorse, of a sort.

Read Full Review of Fever: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Lucy Silag on Mar 08 2013

Fever manages to make you hope against hope, just like the real Mary must have, that the doctors are wrong; that the dozens of typhoid cases linked to her aren’t really her fault.

Read Full Review of Fever: A Novel | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

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Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

Added the book to custom list '2013 NPR'

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