Desperately seeking another The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I picked up Fever. First off, I love that author Mary Beth Keane wrote a historical fiction novel about the notorious woman with whom she shares a first name and who is largely known as Typhoid Mary. Keane told of the outbreak of Typhoid in New York during the early 1900’s in an informative and entertaining way. The book was a beautiful biography on a tortured woman, rather than a dull non-fiction account of Mary’s life. Mary, an Irish immigrant slid into a position as a cook soon after landing in New York, and utilized her knack for whipping up delicious meals as a way to earn money. Mary attracted the attention of an ambitious man in the Sanitation department when several people in the family Mary cooked for became ill with fever.
A quick investigation revealed that many of the people Mary cooked for over the years also died from fever, which resulted in Mary being taken to an island off New York and held against her will in solitary confinement. Quarantined and denied basic privileges, like sending a letter to her long-time boyfriend, Mary spent over a year in the small room alone where she was forced to provide fluids for sampling several times a week. When a lawyer finally caught wind of the injustice of her confinement, he took on her case and won her freedom. I enjoyed the legal aspect of the book and, of course, which there had been more details about it. Sadly, the reputation that followed Mary destroyed her life. Unable to obtain regular work, she struggled to survive.
This was an interesting book, but there were several places were the pace slowed. There was too much focus on Mary’s boyfriend, and the story jumped around a bit too much for me.