In this historical novel, Mary Beth Keane humanizes Mary Mallon, the Irish immigrant commonly known as Typhoid Mary, who unknowingly infected dozens with typhoid fever when she worked as a cook in wealthy New York homes at the turn of the 20th century. Keane's version of Mary is complex; she grieves deeply for a child who dies of the fever in her care, and yet she refuses to believe that she is a carrier of the disease, defying the Department of Health's order to never work as a cook again. Keane carries the suspense of whether Mary will come to understand what she has wrought all the way through to the end.
The petrochemical compounds found in many plastics, drugs and pesticides ultimately make their way into our bodies. Sarah A. Vogel, who works for the Environmental Defense Fund, found her friends were constantly asking which everyday household items are safe. Her book examines the debate around bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in plastic production. Researchers say that BPA may increase the risk of chronic diseases and behavioral abnormalities, but the plastics industry and U.S. regulators insist small amounts of BPA exposure are safe. Vogel argues that we can no longer live by the notion "a little bit can't hurt."