I read Fever by Mary Beth Keane with my book club last month. The book is about Mary Mallon aka “Typhoid Mary.” The book is broken up into three parts. The first part introduces the reader to Mary Mallon and she is working at a family’s home when it is brought to her attention that she might be causing the typhoid outbreaks at high society homes.
This is book is a fictionalized tale of the real story of Mary Mallon. Majority of the elements are true, but others are made-up.
Mary Mallon is described as strong-willed woman, at times volatile. When Mary is first approached by Dr. Soper. Mary is eventually caught and taken to the hospital; however she shows no signs of being sick. Eventually she is moved to another facility on North Brother Island which was a tuberculosis hospital.
Mary seeks out a lawyer to tell her side of the story and her unlawful detainment. This happened in the 1900s, germ theory was just starting to take off in the United States.
Mary kept asking the doctors what was happening, but they did not know themselves entirely. They that germs are passed along from person to person but there to be a healthy person (carrier) was unbeknownst to them.
The second part of the book talks about Mary’s personal life. I personally believe is the fictionalized part because while reading this book I researched Mary Mallon’s story. Mary’s personal story is that she lived with man, unmarried. This was very taboo for the Victorian era. It was really great to get to know Mary on more personal level and not just “Typhoid Mary” but it seemed disjointed to me at times.
In the third part of the book, as part of the her condition to be released Mary can never work as a cook again. So she becomes a laundress but the pay is horrible and eventually she winds up working at bakery and then for a maternity hospital. At the maternity hospital, Mary can see a direct correlation with her cooking and the patient’s and their babies getting sick. She apprehended and sent to live on North Brother for the rest of her life.
All the ladies at book club really enjoyed this book very much! They love historical fiction. I personally enjoyed book and made it want to learn more about Mary Mallon and the spread of diseases.
Overall, I would give it a 3 out of 5