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Read With Us: Promoting Fever

We talked about reading yesterday and guess what? We’re talking about it again today! I’m a librarian and I could honestly talk about reading and books all day long but I have a specific task for today and that is to get you excited about our Read With Us winter selection: Fever by Mary Beth Keane.

In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that I haven’t started the book in earnest yet. As in, I’m at the 1% mark. But that doesn’t  mean I can’t get you all hyped to get started! If you need a refresher on what it’s about and why we chose it you can find that on this blog post. I think this book will appeal to readers of historical fiction, certainly, but also fans of biofiction, those who enjoy stories of Irish immigrants, medical mysteries, and women’s fiction. In other words, the subject matter itself should be interesting.


Certainly the real Mary Mallon is a fascinating historical figure. She never exhibited symptoms of typhoid fever herself yet was eventually identified as the first asymptomatic carrier of the disease in the United States. She is presumed to have infected upwards of 50 people and three of those illnesses resulted in death, although she worked under different names and that number could be higher. Interestingly enough, she was not the most lethal carrier of the germ, that honor goes to Tony Labella, a New Yorker who caused two outbreaks in 1922 that combined for more than 100 cases and five deaths. We know now that germs are spread by poor hygiene and in Mary Mallon’s case it is believed that she passed along typhoid germs by serving ice cream with raw peaches. It was one of her most popular dessert dishes and since it wasn’t cooked the bacteria wasn’t killed in the process.

Mary Mallon was pursued and forced into quarantine on two separate occasions but both times wound up as a domestic worker or food worker again. In the end she spent 26 years in forced isolation on North Brother Island. This was as likely due to public opinion and ridicule as to any real threat of disease since she wouldn’t have spread it if she had stayed out of food service. I can’t help but wonder, and others have speculated on this as well, if Mary Mallon wasn’t pursued and isolated due to the socioeconomic situation at the time. She was female, Irish, difficult, and had no family. Was she justly quarantined or unfairly persecuted?

I’m sure we’ll have so much to discuss in the weeks to come! In the meantime, keep an eye out on Kym’s blog and Bonny’s blog for more posts to get you excited about reading Fever. And also . . . wash your hands!

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Carole, just finished reading Fever. One of the best historical fiction books I have read. Am sure you’ll enjoy a good read. Just started The Dutch House and after first few pages know I’m not going to be able to put it down. Happy reading in 2020!

  2. A great reminder to start reading this – and I will as soon as I have finished a couple of library books that are due! 🙂

  3. Carole, this book is right up my alley! I put it on my hold list until I finish what I’m presently reading. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. I started reading a couple of days ago and am almost halfway done. I’m really enjoying it! So far, I’ve come to the same conclusion as to why she was treated the way she was: She was female, lower class, and an immigrant. I think what I’ve read so far relates as much to prejudice and discrimination as it does to the understanding of disease and how it spreads.

  5. Great intro, Carole! I’m . . . oh . . . a little more than half-way finished with Fever. I think you’ll like it! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the reminder. I just put it on hold at my local library, it will take a few days for them to get it from another library but then I will be reading it.

  7. Great promo, Carole! I finished the book last week and I think your thoughts about good discussion topics are spot on as to prejudice about immigrants and women. We’ve also learned a lot about infectious diseases and I might love to touch on that, too in light of what’s happened with measles in the last few years. But I’ll save my thoughts 😉

  8. Oooh, I heard her story on NPR and it was sad and fascinating. I wish I was a faster reader or had more time to dedicate to reading, but right now life is too busy with work…but I will have more free time at work soon, so who knows.

    I love when you release your reading lists because it gives me so many different choices and inspirations for what I can fit in my life right now.

    I want to read this one now and I definitely want to read Prozac Nation with the passing of Elizabeth Wurtzel. It was a book that I remembered wanting to read but never did.

  9. I’ve been waiting for this to come due at the library. I checked Amazon this morning and they have the Kindle version for $1.99 if anyone needs a copy. Looking forward to reading this!

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