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Narrator: Heather Henderson
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)
Length: 8 hours 48 minutes
Betty MacDonald’s humorous accounts of life continue! This time, she takes us through the year she spent in a tuberculosis sanitorium in Washington in 1938. She pokes fun at everyone, including herself.
This was such a fun book! I know, I’m saying that about a woman’s story of a year away from her life (kids, family, work, fun, friends, etc.), and I may have to spend a little time in purgatory for having laughed so much at such a serious subject. Betty MacDonald does a great job of telling how truthfully horrible being sick is, but also laughing at the situation herself.
I really enjoyed her previous book, The Egg and I, andI found this book even more enjoyable. Tuberculosis isn’t fun for anyone, but in the late 1930s, treatment was something that put your life on hold. Betty was lucky to have spent only a year in the sanitorium. She was also lucky to have close family nearby to take care of her young girls while she was away. Also, she found a sanitorium that offered her free treatment, based on her need. Of course, since she was there are charity, the staff often reminded her that if she didn’t adhere to the strict rules (many of which made little to no sense), she would be asked to leave, still sick.
While there is humor throughout this book, I was also fascinated by life in a sanitorium in the 1930s. It seems the staff were perpetually afraid of the patients commingling and hitting up quickie romances; I think Betty had never received so much warnings against lust in her life! Then there were other rules, like how often a patient was allowed to pee in a day, women patients not being allowed the papers (because it would excite them too much and tax their brains!), and how tatting was allowed but not composing a book.
Patients weren’t allowed to bathe often – once a week for a bath and once a month for hair washing! If family and friends brought special food on their limited visits, all food had to be eaten before the end of the day and whatever wasn’t had to be tossed! Can you imagine receiving a favorite batch of cookies and having to give up any uneaten ones to the trash?
I also had a morbid fascination with the medical practices of the time as well. Betty does a great job describing them from the patient’s view point. In The Egg and I, there were some disparaging racial remarks made. For this book, I am happy to say that Betty points out the silliness of such attitudes of other patients (which were directed at Japanese and African-Americans). All around it’s a very entertaining book and a fascinating look into medical care in the late 1930s.
I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.
The Narration: Heather Henderson has done another great job portraying Betty MacDonald with her narration of this book. I really enjoyed her warm voice for all the humor. During the occasional serious or emotional moment, she did a wonderful job of imbuing the characters with emotion.
What I Liked: Very funny; fascinating look at medical care in the 1930s; tackling a tough situation with humor; Betty pokes fun at everyone, including herself; great narration.
What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great, fun read.
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About Heather Henderson:
Heather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts. Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire; and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine. She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry. In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.
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Synopsis of The Plague and I:
The Plague and I recounts MacDonald’s experiences in a Seattle sanitarium, where the author spent almost a year (1938-39) battling tuberculosis. The White Plague was no laughing matter, but MacDonald nonetheless makes a sprightly tale of her brush with something deadly.
Tuberculosis. A terrifying word, as terrifying then as cancer is now. It meant entering a sanatorium for treatment, leaving her family, her children. And what if she did not recover? Hardly the basis for comedy, one would suppose. And one would be wrong. Betty MacDonald always had the ability to face up to adversity — and heaven knows she had enough in her life — so after the initial shock had passed, she proceeded to laugh at her illness, the other patients, the nurses, the doctors, and — chiefly — herself. Humor was her greatest medicine, right up to the day she left the sanatorium, cured. Of course she had her bad moments when despair and tragedy underlying what she saw and heard refused to be pushed into the background, but she had the grit and wit to rise above it. The result is a lively, cheerful and most funny book. In fact, it’s a tonic.
About the Author Betty MacDonald:
Betty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters.
MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).
Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.
Find out more on Wikipedia
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The Plague and I Runner Up
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