Fever: A Novel

Fever: A Novel

Mary Beth Keane

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 1451693427

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The “infectiously readable” (Vanity Fair) novel about the woman known as “Typhoid Mary,” who becomes, “in Keane’s assured hands…a sympathetic, complex, and even inspiring character” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

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.

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in the fire and walked out. Instead she only nodded. “Where?” The following morning, when he woke up before she did and pulled on a clean undershirt, she didn’t ask where he was going, or what time he’d be home. Staying silent didn’t do her any good anyway. The peace of that time was ruined despite her decision not to stand up to him. Destroyed. Heroin was cheaper than morphine now, not as closely regulated, and he’d heard about a doctor on East Ninetieth Street who was quick to prescribe

their rooms, and they didn’t take him away. His pills were a mess, all over the desk as well as the drawer, and the needles he’d kept so clean and organized were separated, thrown here and there, mixed up with his dirty clothes, one propped inside an empty coffee mug. I should clean it all up, she thought, and realized she didn’t care. “There’s Typhoid at the hospital,” she said, looking at the ceiling, worried that she was already forgetting what it felt like to hug him when he was warm, and

“You’ll be transferred there once it’s complete. You won’t have to be here with the TB patients anymore.” She smiled gently at Mary as if this might be received as good news. Mary felt as if she’d waded into a lake of cold water and just felt the bottom drop away. “Why? If they’re going to let me go soon?” “Did they say that? That they’re going to let you go?” “Yes, they did,” Mary said quietly as she felt her throat constrict and her body begin to tremble. She stumbled back to her

squares of muslin Mr. Hallenan used to strain his coffee. Where twenty years earlier this had shamed her, now she took comfort in the sight and knew she was closer to home. A few tenants had gotten hold of the new roundabout lines that could be extended out a window into the sky without needing to be anchored on another building or another fire escape. The rooms Mary shared with Alfred were on the sixth floor, at the very top of the stairs. Unlike the narrow tenements of the Lower East Side,

Fever through her cooking, though she manifests no signs of the disease herself. At the time of her capture she was cooking for one of the wealthiest families on Park Avenue. Dr. Soper further alleges that the daughter of the family was battling Typhoid Fever at the time the cook was apprehended, and has since succumbed to the disease. Dr. Soper, the medical sleuth at the center of this case, put the pieces of this groundbreaking puzzle together after being called upon to investigate a

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