A bold, mesmerizing
novel about the woman known as “Typhoid Mary,” the first known healthy carrier
of typhoid fever in the early twentieth century—written by an award-winning writer
whom the National Book Foundation on their “5 Under 35” list.
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.
twentieth-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 as Typhoid 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
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