My Notorious Life was a masterpiece. The plot and characters developed so well with each chapter that by the last fifty pages, I couldn’t read this fast enough! The best thing about My Notorious Life was the narrator. Axie’s passionate voice and spunky character evoked sympathy from me immediately. As a child, Axie’s life was dire. She scrounged for food with her sister and infant brother after their mother’s arm was lost during her shift as a factory worker in New York. Axie and her siblings soon found themselves on the infamous orphan trains, and within a few weeks, Axie was separated from her siblings when her antics landed her back on the train to return to the dirty apartment with mother.
Once home, Axie quickly realized she would have to fend for herself. Her drive and ambition prompted her to assist a midwife, and she learned as much as she could from her. This is not a book for the squeamish. There were plenty of detailed passages about midwifery that enhanced the story, but seemed almost too realistic. Throughout the book, Axie’s perseverance was her best personality trait. Despite her rough upbringing she emerged as a caring mother and dedicated physician. Soon Axie became Mrs. Jones then Madam DeBeausacq, but by any name she was a proponent of birth control and an early gynecologist, two things women in the 1880’s desperately needed. I don’t know that a pro-life reader would appreciate this book given the strong political statements made about the harm that occurred as a result of restrictions on information and availability of medical devices related to women’s reproductive health. I was caught off guard that the author used the prudent 1880’s as a setting for a story with such strong feminist views, but I loved it!
When I purchased this book, I didn’t know the extent of the plot, and was pleasantly surprised with everything about this. I know I will continue to think about the many serious themes and statements the author so effortlessly weaved into this story.