My Notorious Life (Manning)

My Notorious Life
Kate Manning, 2013
Scribner
448 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781451698060



Summary
A brilliant rendering of a scandalous historical figure, Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life is an ambitious, thrilling novel introducing Axie Muldoon, a fiery heroine for the ages.

Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day.

In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.”

When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear.

Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mys­tery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—N/A
Where—Syracuse, New York, USA
Education—N/A
Awards—two Emmy Awards
Currently—lives in New York City, New York


Kate Manning is the author of Whitegirl, a novel (2002) and My Notorious Life (2013). A former documentary television producer for public television, she has won two New York Emmy Awards, and also written for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times Book Review, among others. She has taught creative writing at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, where she lives with her boisterous family, including a dog named Moon, who walks her regularly. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
[I]ts historical setting and language [are] densely and effectively styled. Manning is best when writing about the wretched squalor of 19th-century urban childhood and the orphan trains that transported children from city streets to willing foster homes across the country. In places, you can even squint and pretend you're reading Angela's Ashes.
Alex Kuczynski - New York Times Book Review


Manning’s sophisticated, intelligent novel is brought to life by the vivid voice in which her central character tells her own story.
Sunday Times (London)


Paint[s] a landscape of old New York that’s both quaint and terrifying, where love can be bartered over a back-stoop picnic and slander awaits around cobblestoned corners. Come for the notoriety, stay for the sympathy.
Daily Beast


(Starred review.) Loosely based on the life of Ann Trow Lohman (aka Madame Restell), the infamous abortionist who became known as “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” Manning’s second rags-to-riches novel (after Whitegirl) nimbly resurrects the bold woman behind the scandalous headlines.... [T]he details of Madame X’s private life, told in her thick Irish brogue—about the search for her long-lost siblings, her fiery relationship with her devoted husband, and her growth as a mother...lend a human face to a this sensational figure.
Publishers Weekly


[A] compelling and tragic (in its way) success story. Manning convincingly presents willful nineteenth-century child Axie Muldoon, based on an actual person.... [W]itnessing her mother’s unnecessary death inflamed a coal in Axie’s heart that burned for every woman she encountered who faced uniquely feminine perils. Manning’s fascinating dramatization of the hazards of her protagonist’s pillar-to-post childhood and slave-labor apprenticeship...vividly and movingly portray an unsympathetic world for women. —Donna Chavez
Booklist


A rollicking romp through 19th-century American contraception inspired by the true story of a Manhattan midwife. In 1860, Axie, nee Annie, is "rescued" from a New York slum along with her siblings and sent West on an orphan train,... but the irascible 12-year old is sent back to New York...[where] by the age of 16 [she] is an accomplished midwife's assistant who has picked up many helpful hints about all aspects of pregnancy, including avoiding it and ending it.... The ensuing events highlight controversies regarding "reproductive health" that are still raging today. Axie's profane Irish brogue is vividly recreated with virtually no anachronistic slips, and though a certain degree of polemical crusading is unavoidable given Axie's proclivities, her voice never fails to entertain.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2014