Monday, October 12, 2015

Terrible Typhoid Mary

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is an absolute winner. 

This is history at its best. Bartoletti is an author whose work I've read for a while.  Long ago I heard her speak at the yearly fall children's book festival held in Iowa City (sadly, there is no such conference any longer).  I remember only one piece of advice she gave which happens to be something that everyone who wants to write should remember.

When she was sharing how some friends had read what she wrote and claimed that they could write the type of books she did, she agreed. However, the key is that she actually took time to write it, and they didn't.  So her advice is that while other people could write as well as you, the trick is to be the one who actually sits down and does the writing.  It doesn't count unless it's down on paper.

When I first heard about Terrible Typhoid Mary I thought it would be an interesting historical fiction book.  However, this is just plain ol' history that includes facts and information.  The best part is that it is written in such a way that it isn't dry or boring.  

Typhoid Mary, as she came to be known, came by her nickname after a family she cooked for had several members fall ill with typhoid fever. In looking at the potential causes of this illness, as well as other families that had suffered from an outbreak of typhoid fever, Mary's presence as their cook was one thing all had in common.

By telling Mary's story, Bartoletti is also able to delve into scientific topics such as pathology, as well as how Mary was treated inhumanely in some ways for being a carrier of a sickness that she passed on to others.

I loved that there are photographs of Mary and other pictures included at the end of the book that I looked through as I read, totally captivated by this story.

Bartoletti hasn't disappointed me yet, so I am hopeful she's already working on her next book since this one is so enjoyable.

1 comment:

Anne Bennett said...

I found Bartoletti's book on the KKK to be fascinating and well-written. I will certainly look into this book,too. I like reading books about history with a focus on one event like this one.