Age Level: Adult
American history enthusiasts and/or medical history readers may know about the case of Typhoid Mary. Mary Mallon, a woman who emigrated from Ireland and was a cook in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, was identified as a healthy carrier for typhoid. The Department of Health felt Mary transferred the disease through her cooking and isolated her on North Brother Island. She later left the Island, after promising not to cook for anyone again, only to return to isolation five years later for breaking her promise. While many others in the country were identified as healthy carriers, Mary was the only one assigned to isolation for the rest of her life.
In this fictional account of Mary Mallon’s life, Keane brings Mary’s point of view to light. Keane portrays Mary as a woman who does not understand the charges against her and cannot begin to fathom how someone as healthy as she is can cause so much sickness and death. Mary blames Dr. George Soper, the man responsible for connecting Mary to the typhoid breakouts, for the destruction of her life.
I enjoy reading fictionalized accounts of historical events; if written well, these accounts help present a different perspective of the historical event and make me want to read more about the event. Fever fits this description perfectly. Keane does a fascinating job creating a sympathetic look at Mary Mallon. Prior to reading Fever, I knew some of the basic facts about Typhoid Mary and the case against her. I now want to read more about the case. Keane spent a number of years researching the case, and her character development of Mary, as well as the other vibrant characters that jump off the page, show this effort. Any fan of history should read this book.
Reviewed by Jessica