Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

Fever by Mary Beth Keane is the story of Mary Mallon better known as Typhoid Mary.  This story picks up her life after she has immigrated to the United States from Ireland a while and is working in the upper class homes of people who have many servants.  At the time she is working as a cook having worked her way up from the lowest of the servants, the laundress.  This is quite a step up both in prestige as well as income.  She can now afford to eat regularly and have a few more clothes.  She can now rent a tiny apartment instead of a bed in a room full of beds. 
The Department of Health of New York has proposed that there may be “asymptomatic carrier” and has set out on a crusade to find the carrier and protect the citizens.  The plan is to isolate this person from the populous in order to keep the citizens safe from this carrier.  The papers had begun calling her the Germ Woman.  This is the beginning of knowing that germs cause diseases and that cleanliness is helpful in prevention.  There was not many ways of curing illness once they occurred however so once it was known that the Germ Woman was exposing the population to Typhoid Fever great fear spread throughout the state.  Mary did not believe it at first.  Most people that she cooked for and lived with did not become ill—just a few in fact.  When caught Mary was sent to live in seclusion in a 10x12 hut on North Brother Island.  On this island was also housed a tuberculosis sanitarium.  Mary worked for the groundskeeper and finally in the lab.  This is her story.
I enjoyed reading of Mary and her story.  This story is one that should be read by most.  It tells of just how far our world has come in just one century.  Many of the people alive today cannot remember having fear of dying from many diseases.  100 years ago it was quite common to have a sibling or more dye during their childhood.  It was common to isolate illnesses to keep the majority of the area disease free.  It was unknown to be able to get antibiotics to cure diseases.  This story will remind us of how lucky and blessed that we are today.
This book was provided for this review from Simon and Shuster for this review.

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