Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Review: Deadly

Julie Chibbaro
2011; Atheneum (Simon & Schuster); ISBN 978-0-689-85738-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Prudence has so many questions.  She wants to know whether her father will ever return home after being declared missing during the Spanish-American War.  She wanders if it's right for her mother to try and move on after waiting for eight years.  Most of all, she wants to understand how people get sick, how some people recover and some don't.  Beginning work at New York City's Department of Health and Sanitation, Prudence starts to learn about cells, bacteria, and more.  With her boss Mr. Soper--a man with whom Prudence is slowly falling in love--Prudence assists with tracking down a typhoid carrier who has sickened dozens of people.  The carrier, a healthy woman named Mary Mallon, has never had typhoid but must be held in quarantine to prevent her spreading typhoid.  Such treatment makes Prudence examine whether she's equipped for a scientific career, a career that could answer her questions.

Written in a diary format, Deadly examines a young woman slowly choosing her future life.  Ever since the disappearance of her father, Prudence and her mother have withdrawn from life.   Yet Prudence wants to know why people die, if those deaths could be prevented.  For a young woman in 1906, the easy, expected path was marriage, children, and a home.  Prudence would not find her answers in such a setting, though.  Her struggles on the Mary Mallon case--the woman known as Typhoid Mary--forces Prudence to balance her heart against her mind.  This process is portrayed authentically, giving readers a window on the hardships faced by women choosing a career in this period.  There's a great sense of place, of what life was like in 1906 New York City, in this novel.  An intriguing meld of historical fiction and science, through Prudence's new-found knowledge and sketches of plans and germs, Deadly will appeal to readers who are interested in diseases or women's history.

Other Reviews
Musings of a Book Addict:
Confessions of a Bookaholic:
Goddess Librarian:
Historically Speaking's interview with Julie Chibbaro:

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