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My Notorious Life: A Novel Audiobook, by Kate Manning Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Kate Manning Narrator: Terry Donnelly Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2013 ISBN: 9781442366428
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Set in gritty New York City in the last half of the nineteenth century, My Notorious Life is a vibrant portrait of Axie Muldoon, a plucky orphan who becomes one of the most successful, and controversial, midwives of her time. Told in a magnetic voice, pulsing and vivid, Axie recounts how she is separated from her mother and siblings and apprenticed to a doctor and midwife and how she later parlays the sale of a few bottles of “lunar tonic for female complaints” into a thriving midwifery practice with her husband and fellow orphan friend, Charles G. Jones. But Axie is on a collision course with one of the most zealous, censorious characters of her era: Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and it will take all of Axie’s power to outwit him and save both herself and her family from ruin.

A love story, a family saga, and a brilliant rendering of a historical time, this is also a moving and nuanced commentary on an important topic: women’s control of their bodies. But ultimately, it is the story of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world. With her fierce and vibrant spirit, Axie Muldoon is an indelible heroine for the ages.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Exquisitely written and richly detailed, My Notorious Life is a marvel. Kate Manning’s rags-to-riches Dickensian saga brings to vivid life the world of nineteenth-century New York City, in all its pitiful squalor and glittering opulence. I loved this novel.”

    Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author

  • “[A] daring page-turner…Manning’s meticulously researched novel is both historical and astonishingly current.”

    O: The Oprah Magazine

  • “An inspiring, thought-provoking work of historical fiction [that] is a testament to the strength of the human spirit…Axie is fascinating…I couldn’t get enough of her.”

    Real Simple

  • “Manning’s novel is based on the life of Ann Lohman, a New York City midwife…Its historical setting and language [are] densely and effectively styled.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Racing along the back alleys and posh avenues of Manhattan…Axie’s fiery story [keeps] burning right to the end.”

    Washington Post

  • My Notorious Life belongs on the shelf with other novels of the female picaresque, a sturdy genre that includes Moll Flanders and Fear of Flying.”


  • “Loosely based on the life of Ann Trow Lohman (aka Madame Restell), the infamous abortionist who became known as the ‘Wickedest Woman in New York,’ Manning’s second rags-to-riches novel nimbly resurrects the bold woman behind the scandalous headlines…Manning paints a vivid portrait of this daring yet deeply compassionate woman who is willing to flout convention and defy the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights….[and] it’s the details of Madame X’s private life, told in her thick Irish brogue—about the search for her long-lost siblings, her fiery relationship with her devoted husband, and her growth as a mother—that lend a human face to a this sensational figure.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “From the start of this fictionalized story of Axie Muldoon, a nineteenth-century abortionist, Terry Donnelly’s narration is filled with spirit and fervor.…Her Irish accent and tones of confidence, anxiety, and, often, distrust towards others painfully explore the character’s battle to survive not only for herself but also for her family. Listening to this audiobook, one enters Axie’s world.”


  • “Manning convincingly presents willful nineteenth-century child Axie Muldoon, based on an actual person, who was born of piss-poor Irish immigrants but was as prideful as the queen herself. And it’s a good thing too, or else Axie—later to become Mrs. Anne Jones then Madame DeBeausacq then Madame X—might have died of starvation or hypothermia on the streets of an indifferent New York City. Or worse, she might have died in childbirth like her mother. But witnessing her mother’s unnecessary death inflamed a coal in Axie’s heart that burned for every woman she encountered who faced uniquely feminine perils. Manning’s fascinating dramatization of the hazards of her protagonist’s pillar-to-post childhood and slave-labor apprenticeship, followed by her creation of Madame X’s above-and-around-the-law career vividly and movingly portray an unsympathetic world for women.”


  • “A rollicking romp through nineteenth-century American contraception inspired by the true story of a Manhattan midwife…Axie’s profane Irish brogue is vividly recreated with virtually no anachronistic slips, and though a certain degree of polemical crusading is unavoidable given Axie's proclivities, her voice never fails to entertain.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
  • An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2013

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About the Author

Kate Manning is a former documentary television producer and has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Glamour, and More. She has won two Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Brotherhood Award. She is an adjunct faculty member of the English Department at Bard High School Early College and lives with her family in New York City.

About the Narrator

Terry Donnelly is a narrator and an actress who has appeared on television in Law & Order. She is the narrator of more than a dozen audiobooks, and her reading of Quentins by Maeve Binchy was a finalist in 2003 for the prestigious Audie Award in the category of Solo Narration – Female. She earned an AudioFile Earphones Award for her reading of The Gathering by Anne Enright in which she was praised for “capturing [the author’s] every subtlety.”