Fever, a story of an infamous Irish immigrant, is a perfect book to read with St. Patricks Day around the corner. I was lucky enough to receive a galley copy of this book and as I started to read the first few pages of Mary Beth Keane’s novel I quickly became absorbed in the story of Mary Mallon, aka, Typhoid Mary. The first known asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever, Mary was an Irish immigrant who came to the United States when she was 14 and started working as a laundress. She eventually progressed to cook and ended up working for many wealthy families. Unfortunately, many of the people she cooked for died. You can tell the author has done extensive research on Mary and definitely humanizes the woman behind the name. You feel Mary’s pain and isolation when she is quarantined on the remote North Brother Island, off the coast of Manhattan, for much of her life. (check out Keane’s website for some fascinating historical facts & photos) The book also gives us a wonderful depiction of the immigrant experience in New York City in the early 20th century. I think this book would make a great selection for anyone who likes historical fiction and book clubs because there is so much to discuss, particularly, should Mary have lost her freedom?
Keane was named one of the “5 under 35” authors t by the National Book Foundation in 2011 and this book definitely makes her an author that I will put on my reading list in the future!