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Two Looks at Typhoid Mary

Fever  Deadly

In October, I read Fever by Mary Beth Keane and then earlier this month, I got my hands on Deadly by Julie Chibbaro. Both deal with Typhoid Mary in very different styles and from extremely different angles.  Also, it must be pointed out that Deadly is considered Young Adult, even won the National Jewish Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, while Fever is geared towards adult historical fiction.

Since Deadly is more fresh in my mind I will tackle that one first.  Prudence is a young lady slightly ahead of her time. Her losses, a brother to some disease and her father MIA in the Spanish-American War, have led her to be obsessed with what makes the body tick and what makes it stop ticking. Luckily she lands a job in the fairly new Health Department and this feeds her need for knowledge and leads her on the hunt for what turns out to be Typhoid Mary alongside her boss, George Soper.

Now Deadly, is a great book for young adults. It shows that women had to fight for their place in the world (especially the sciences), to be taken seriously, and to be sexually harassed while doing so at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it really didn’t focus one bit on the Typhoid Mary other than a few inner conflicts that Prudence felt about her treatment. The focus of Prudence’s strife could have been set in any backdrop at that time period, say a woman that wants to be a clerk as opposed to a shirt waste maker or any other field/area that women had yet to really enter at the time. At it’s heart, it is a story of a young girl with dreams  that are “above her station” and trying to achieve them. A great story until I compare it to Fever.

Fever was for adults and told from the viewpoint of Typhoid Mary herself, Mary Mallon. Imagine yourself, an Irish woman, never been sick a day in your life that you can remember, immigrating to the United States by yourself and working hard enough to become a well-known for hire cook in some of the more respected households. You live a fairly moral life, except for the fact that you have never married the man that you live with. It is the the early 20th century, so fevers and other often deadly illnesses are still common among all classes.  You, Mary the cook, pitch in when fevers hit a household that you are working in; preparing cold compresses, ice baths, and the like.

Suddenly, in 1906, some man named George Soper from the Health Department starts chasing you down telling you that you are the one responsible for all of those illnesses and deaths.  (Insert my great-great-grandmother’s Irish brogue here saying, “Are ye daft man? I’ve never been sick a day of me life, hows could I be making these people sick? ‘Tis crazy) She ran off from the man, multiple times and from job to job.

No matter, eventually Soper captures our dear Mary Mallon by force and quarantines her on North Brother Island in a hospital usually used for Small Pox victims. She is still healthy as a horse, but all told, spends 26 years living in a wee house on that island, not sick, but not allowed to leave.

Obviously, Mary’s travails griped me in Fever in a way that Deadly couldn’t and wasn’t meant to. The injustice, the loneliness, the longing, the sheer uncertainty of life and science at that point left me wanting to find the  grave of Mary Mallon and apologize for what we did to her.

So if you want a light young adult overview of Typhoid Mary, pick Deadly. If you want to feel her pain and really dealve into the story of Mary Mallon, read Fever.  And….if you ever find yourself wandering around Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, doff your hat to her for me.

Fever: A Novel by Mary Beth Keane

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (March 12, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451693419
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451693416

Deadly by Julie Chibarro

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 21, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 068985739X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689857393


Red Apple

In it’s short history, America has had some dark times as we navigate not only our constitution but the changing times. i.e. our horrible native American policies, the Civil War, Slavery, Civil Rights, Gay rights, and the continuing battle to separate Church and State.

There was one period of disease that was so far reaching and so blatantly against what forefathers stood for that just peeking into that era makes me cringe with embarrassment for being an American.

When else have we persecuted people for their own thoughts and beliefs? When have we gone after a multitude of people for something that should be covered under one of the basic tenets of this great country, Free Speech? When have we hounded everyday citizens, pressuring them to turn in the fellow neighbors, friends, family, teachers, union members? The United States became like sinking ship and it was every rat for themselves.

One can say that we have some of that now with the fight against terrorism, but this was different. The U.S congress was tiptoeing along the yellow brick road to fascism. It wasn’t just the Hollywood Ten that classic film buffs, like me,  may know about.

Now McCarthy didn’t start it. The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) became a standing (permanent) committee in 1945, but had it’s roots as far back as the Overman committee in 1918, headed by Senator Lee Slater Overman right through the Dies Committee chaired by Martin Dies Jr from 1938-1944.

Strangely, when many of think of HUAC, we think of the bombastic Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and that isn’t the case. Since he wasn’t in the House, had had his own committees in the Senate. We also tend to think that the Hollywood Ten were the only ones blacklisted, but Red Apple makes it painstaking clear, just by looking at six New Yorker’s lives and how they were changed, no ruined, by the Cold War and McCarthyism.

As far as the book itself, there were points that were a bit plodding and it was tough to keep track of all of the acronyms of clubs and government divisions, whether pro-communist, peace-based, anti-communist, etc. However, it was a revelation to me, made me so angry that the first three paragraphs of this review were written at 1 AM in long hand in the little notebook by my bed. It made me so irate that I just had to get some thoughts down right then.

Did you know that McCarthy actually made it into the dictionary. (thanks Dictionary.com)


the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, especially of pro-Communist activity, in manyinstances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.


the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.

Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York

by Phillip Deery


  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press (January 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0823253686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823253685



P.S. Thanks to the publisher for my copy, I think being so irate about things that I couldn’t change was great for my low bloodpressure.

Little Night by Luanne Rice


I use Grammarly’s free plagiarism checkeronline because let’s face it as original as I am, my posts leave a lot to be desired by English teachers.


I’ve never read anything by Luanne Rice and have no idea how this particular book ended up on my wish list. To make matters even worse, when I read the blurb, I was ready to march right back into the library to return it because it just was not my sort of book.

Here’s the blurb-

“ Clare Burke’s life took a devastating turn when she tried to protect her sister, Anne, from an abusive and controlling husband and ended up serving prison time for assault. The verdict largely hinged on Anne’s defense of her spouse—all lies—and the sisters have been estranged ever since. Nearly twenty years later, Clare is living a quiet life in Manhattan as an urban birder and nature blogger, when her niece, Grit, turns up on her doorstep.

The two long for a relationship with each other, but they’ll have to dig deep into their family’s difficult past in order to build one. Together they face the wounds inflicted by Anne and find in their new connection a place of healing. When Clare begins to suspect her sister might be in New York, she and her niece hold out hope for a long-awaited reunion with her.”

Now I know that there are those that hate the term Chick Lit, but there was no doubt in my mind that this fit in that category. However, I had paid $1 to get the book transferred to my library and it was on my wish list, so I was going to read it gosh darn it!

The book ripped my heart out and served it back cold like Gazpacho. It was real and while I don’t have any siblings, I could relate and verify every heart-wrenching reaction in this family’s dynamic.  I can’t remember ever being so wrong about my first impressions of a book before.

Clare decides to take action in her sister’s abusive marriage and her sister’s outright betrayal of her means that everyone pays the price for the rest of their lives. Claire gets sent to prison, putting her own relationship in a permanent holding pattern. She keeps everyone that enters her life at arm’s length and all the while wonders how her sister, her niece and nephew are doing.  This goes on for twenty long years.

Then her niece shows up at her front door and everything changes. She has to learn to bend, to wonder what has happened with her sister without pushing, to share her very circumscribed life, to just plain live again. Girt, her niece, has some learning, bending, and opening up to do of her own as well.


Little Night by Luanne Rice

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
  • ISBN-10: 0670023566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023561


This post was sponsored by Grammarly and I highly recommend trying it out.  We always have more to learn and no one is perfect.


Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

Back on the Horse-Reviews in Miniature



'Stress' photo (c) 2009, Alan Cleaver - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/












This has been the year of major change for me; new house, new job, new city, new roommate, and finally, somewhat of a new attitude.  One thing that I didn’t leave behind was my love of reading or my laziness towards reviewing:)



Books I Have Loved So Far This Year

  • Mother  This book messed with my mind like…I don’t know what.

Josephine Hurst has her family under control. With two beautiful daughters, a brilliantly intelligent son, a tech-guru of a husband and a historical landmark home, her life is picture perfect. She has everything she wants; all she has to do is keep it that way. But living in this matriarch’s determinedly cheerful, yet subtly controlling domain hasn’t been easy for her family, and when her oldest daughter, Rose, runs off with a mysterious boyfriend, Josephine tightens her grip, gradually turning her flawless home into a darker sort of prison.
Resentful of her sister’s newfound freedom, Violet turns to eastern philosophy, hallucinogenic drugs, and extreme fasting, eventually landing herself in the psych ward. Meanwhile, her brother Will shrinks further into a world of self-doubt. Recently diagnosed with Aspergers and epilepsy, he’s separated from the other kids around town and is homeschooled to ensure his safety. Their father, Douglas, finds resolve in the bottom of the bottle—an addict craving his own chance to escape. Josephine struggles to maintain the family’s impeccable façade, but when a violent incident leads to a visit from child protective services, the truth about the Hursts might finally be revealed.

I really got into Lynn Shepherd and loved these.

Likeness Manfield House

On looking back, it’s like I fell into a rabbit hole of historical fiction, so include this great series..

gods Seven

There was a bit of grand non-fiction as well, but let’s save that for a new post now that I have broken the ice.



Pilgrim’s Wilderness by Tom Kizzia

pilgrims wilderness

A True Story of Innocence and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

This is narrative nonfiction at its finest and one man at his darkest.

In January of 2002 some strangers drove into McCarthy, Alaska and decided to call it home. Getting to that small town (pop. 42 according to the 2000 census)  in the middle of winter would have been difficult for all but the hearty, but Papa Pilgrim managed it with some of his boys and eventually, the rest of his family was able to join him as well, all fifteen kids and his lovely wife, Country Rose. That’s right, fifteen kids.

The residents were a might leery of strangers, but respected a man’s right to live his life and raise his family as he saw fit. It is the Alaskan way after all and besides Pilgrim told them, ““All we want is a place to live our old-time way and be left in peace.” It would be fine.

It wasn’t and would have repercussions for everyone that got involved, some even from the lower 48 states. I could tell you more, but that would be spoiling it.

Pilgrim’s Wilderness fascinated me for so many reasons.

  1. The picture of Alaska and Alaskans painted by Kizzia was beautiful and almost otherworldly in its last frontier-ness. Denali has always been on my mental list for climbing, but this made me want to see all of the state’s grandeur and people by hopping  on a plane right then and there.
  2. The Pilgrim Family’s faith made me uncomfortable and that made me keep reading in hope that I would learn that they had received some sort of comeuppance. Not that I have anything against faith per se, it’s just that anything that you believe so strongly that you have a great number of kids and move them all to the farthest reaches in isolation….I can’t grasp.
  3. Papa Pilgrim, AKA Bob Hale, had so many interesting connections in his life. They were all on the outskirts, but it shocked me that someone that had such an “alternative” lifestyle could have them. His dad was a high ranking FBI agent and Papa’s first wife was the daughter of John Connolly, the man that was also shot when JFK was assassinated, for example.
  4. Kizzia is a reporter and not only did his work seem utterly balanced, but his choice of the narrative style worked so well for me. Like Erik Larson, his work reminds me of a snowball rolling on down the hill, gathering scope and speed as it careens to a finish.

So engrossed in the book that I was gobsmacked to see it was 3 AM when I finished. I hadn’t been tired, hadn’t noticed the world around me go silent, I just lost time while reading. That hasn’t happened since I was oh…in high school, I think.


So, I gave you 4 great reasons and a bonus as to why you should pick up the book, what are you waiting for? Even better, anyone up for a road trip to Alaska?

Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Innocence and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (July 16, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0307587827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307587824

Check out the interview with Tom Kizzia at the NYT


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