Saturday, March 5, 2011

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Summary Provided by Goodreads:
A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.

Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?

If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.

With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.

My Thoughts:
What an interesting book! The narration is told in diary entries written by Prudence Galewski, a young Jewish girl living in NYC. Prudence has always been fascinated by how the body works and what causes people to get sick, while others are able to stay healthy. She takes a job at the Department of Health and Sanitation and learns about germs and bacteria and how it spreads from person to person. To us, this might not seem so interesting, but in 1906, this was still a new concept that many people were not able to understand. At her job, Prudence and her employer, Mr. Soper traces the origins of the fever to a woman named Mary Mallon, which the press nicknames, “Typhoid Mary”. She carries the disease, and infects the people that she cooks for, but she herself has never been sick. Up until Mr. Soper and Prudence find her, no one, including Mary, is even aware that she carries the disease. It is up to the Department to find out how this is possible.  

Deadly is a great work of historical fiction, and Chibbaro does a wonderful job capturing the world as it was in the early 1900’s. I kept forgetting that I wasn’t actually reading a real diary from the time period! I also enjoyed the authors note at the end of the book. Chibbaro explains what parts of this book is true, and how characters like Mary and Mr. Soper were real. I would recommend this book to young people interested in history and/or science. It’s almost like this book was written especially for them!

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