Fever

Fever - Mary Beth Keane The famous story of Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, has captured our attention over the past century. Some of the most intriguing questions that her story conjures up are: Did Mary realize that she was spreading this deadly disease as those around her kept succumbing to it, even though she herself never got sick? How would it feel to be unwittingly responsible for causing the deaths of so many people? Fever, by Mary Beth Keane is a historical novel that richly portrays Mary as an atypical woman for her time, providing insight into her mind as she struggles to understand her role in the epidemic. Keane provides the reader a peek into the bleak existence of a lower class immigrant living in the early 20th century. Her version of Mary is flawed in many ways-proud and defiant despite her position in society. Building upon the existing archival information about Mary’s capture and quarantine, Keane imagines how a woman in her position would need to steel herself in order to survive the infamy and guilt she might have felt. Did Mary experience denial when faced with the charges against her? Did she acknowledge her role and forgive herself for the tragedies left in her wake? Or, did she knowingly and maliciously spread Typhoid to the wealthy New York families she worked for? Although the pacing lags a bit in the middle of the book when Mary is first confined, Fever is a nice character study and provides a realistic vision of a sad and difficult period in our history.