The Plague and I

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48 Ratings

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4 out of 5 stars
By Jean on 20-04-16


I first read MacDonald’s book “The Egg and I” back in 1947. I re-read it again last year. This book “The Plague and I” was originally published in 1948. It tells the story of MacDonald’s diagnosis and year stay in a Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Seattle in 1938-39. This is my first time reading “The Plague and I”; somehow I missed reading it years ago.

I did my working rotation in a TB Sanatorium in 1961; by 1963 all the TB hospitals were closed as antibiotics were so successful in treating the disease. It just took a few years to work out the most effective combination of antibiotics. It was like a miracle.

It was devastating to get TB and have to take a year out of your life to be in a TB hospital. TB was a contagious disease and the patient had to be kept away from society until they could no longer transmit the disease. The reader should also remember that TB was and is still a big killer. It is amazing that MacDonald dealt with the situation is such a positive manner and with such humor. The facility MacDonald was in mixed all the races and ethnic group together which was unusual for the time, which Macdonald turned into funny stories. MacDonald provides good descriptions about the various treatments and surgery used at that time. The book does provide a glimpse into medical history. The end of the book MacDonald reveals the difficulties a person had in adjusting to society again after being confined to a Sanatorium for one or more years.

The book is well written in a straight forward, easy to read manner with lots of humor. Who said reading a memoir is boring. Heather Henderson does an excellent job narrating the book.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By MELigon on 20-04-16

Laughing All The Way

Would you consider the audio edition of The Plague and I to be better than the print version?

Not better, just a different way to read. Plus at this point in time you need to look for a used copy to read the book. I have been on a campaign to get this book on Kindle for several years, but it hasn't happened, yet.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Plague and I?

Betty's first night at The Pines.

Which character – as performed by Heather Henderson – was your favorite?

Betty Bard Macdonald

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Betty got a job offer at the end of the story.

Any additional comments?

For anyone who hasn't connected the dots, Betty Bard MacDonald was the author of The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books for children which I have wonderful memories of growing up. She also authored several autobiographical books for adults. She told the story of her family and of her years growing up, of her time raising chickens with her husband and in particular, this book, my favorite, "The Plague and I". This is the story of Betty's time in a tubercular sanatorium in Washington state back in the thirties. At this point in time there were no drugs that could effectively treat TB and it was becoming rampant in this country. In this era, people were many times ordered into sanatoriums in an attempt to get their illness under control and effect a cure as well as to protect the public. Betty went voluntarily and this is the story of her treatment and cure. Lest you think this sounds too depressing for words, let me just say that Betty MacDonald was a top humorist of her time. Before you know it you will find yourself laughing out loud if not rolling on the floor. I have read this book at least a dozen times over many years and it never gets old. I know I will listen to the audio book many more times. Please give this book a listen, you won't regret it!!

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Tamara B. on 29-01-17

A delightful book to listen to

Any additional comments?

The year is 1938 and more than 700 sanitariums were open nationwide for the treatment of tuberculosis. Matter of fact, in the first decades of the 20th century, 1 out of every 170 Americans lived in a sanatorium. Just think about that for a second….1 out of every 170 souls entered into the care of a sanatorium and sadly they probably never left. Tuberculosis, also known as ‘consumption’ or the ‘White Plague’, has killed many people in the history of America. The disease has caused much suffering from hacking, bloody coughs, debilitating pain in their lungs, and fatigue.

One of these poor souls to enter a sanatorium with tuberculosis was Betty MacDonald. What probably had been a turbulent and frightening time in her life, Ms. MacDonald relayed the events and her time at the “Pines” sanatorium with humorous and witty dialogue. Her vivid descriptions of daily life and her fellow residents painted a clear and precise picture in my mind and I could visualize everything perfectly as the story progressed. The retelling of how patients were treated stirred up some anger and sadness within me and I can’t imagine even living under some of the circumstances and conditions, but Ms. MacDonald brought humor and wittiness throughout which made The Plague and I a delightful read. One thing is certain; I have a greater appreciation for modern medicine after listening to this book!

The Plague and I is narrated by Heather Henderson and her performance was spectacular and hands-down amazing. In my opinion, her voice of Betty MacDonald is perfect and I feel as though Ms. MacDonald is telling me the story herself. Each of the other characters in the story has their own distinct voice and each one was perfect. The production quality of this audio book was very good. Each chapter started and ended with a musical clip. I don’t normally like when music is inserted within an audio book, but this time I thought that it really added to the story and each clip was short and the music was from that time period, which I happen to love.

Overall, despite the gloomy topic, this was a delightful book to listen to and I found myself laughing throughout. The Plague and I was well-written, with charming characters and a story line that was both educational and amusing. Ms. MacDonald was a gifted and talented story-teller and when added with the awesomeness of Ms. Henderson’s many voices really blends everything together beautifully and effortlessly. I am a big fan of both Betty MacDonald and Heather Henderson - knowing that without a doubt that I am guaranteed a great read when it comes to this combination of author and narrator.

Story – 4 stars
Performance – 5 stars
Overall – 4.5 stars

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Post Hypnotic Press, Inc. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By DabOfDarkness on 20-01-17

A fascinating look into a tuberculosis hospital!

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.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By M. J. Christensen on 07-06-17

TB and Betty MacDonald

Having read Betty's other book, The Egg and I, I wanted to see how she survived the TB sanatorium. Another reason for my interest was that my mother was also in a TB sanatorium almost exactly ten years after Betty (1948) and had to stay almost four years. The routine of the place had not changed much in those ten years, and Betty's account brought back memories from my mother's own stories. Betty uses humor to soften her story of that awful time. Her descriptions of the other patients and staff are funny and show the variety of personalities that lived and worked in that hospital. Thank goodness antibiotics and surgery helped defeat this disease. Her adjustment to normal life took awhile after having been in that confined place. I also liked that her family was there to help her. The first part of the book is especially funny as she describes her father and his exercise regimen and her grandmother's undermining his efforts. I recommend this book highly to those who are interested in knowing more about TB and the way it was treated before antibiotics, the first being streptomycin, became available.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Colleen T. on 30-01-17

The Plague and I

I have to admit that I had never heard of Betty MacDonald before listening to The Plague and I, her memoir regarding her experiences in a tuberculosis sanitarium and her sometimes serious/sometimes comical adventures in health and illness. I'm so glad I decided to listen to this audiobook as the author's world, told through this wonderful story and by a remarkable narrator, was really interesting and gave me a view into an experience and setting I never would have been able to experience otherwise.

The story begins with MacDonald's recap of the opposing attempts at health education and application between her father and grandmother as she and her siblings grew up. Her father was quite strict regarding exercise and diet while her grandmother sort of made up her own rules regarding health and illness and classified the children's illnesses into set diseases regardless of their symptoms. Ironically, in the end her most serious illness, tuberculosis, was inflicted on her by no fault or lack of discipline of her own.

The bulk of the story takes place in the sanitarium and it was fascinating learning the odd yet strangely effective treatments and rules employed to hopefully cure the many patients at The Pines. I was amazed at the humor MacDonald was able to demonstrate given her situation and what she was expected to do - or not do - in the name of a cure. They were made to spend the vast bulk of their time lying in a cold bed without speaking or coughing and without making any relationships that could hinder their progress. I'm so glad that MacDonald played a little loose with the rules and we were invited along for the ride.

My favorite part of the narrative would have to be the many quirky and therefore humorous characters MacDonald met at the sanitarium. Her roommates, especially the soft spoken Kimmy with the biting wit, made her time in bed as fun as possible. The other patients were a myriad of the absurd - from hypochondriacs to Negative Nancy's to unusually optimistics - and it was so fun watching them on their own journeys through this memoirist's eyes. The nurses and doctors were not very friendly (with the exception of a few) and their strict rules became almost comical as they seemed to think they were working with robots instead of social creatures like humans. This insulated world and its strange cast of characters were unlike anything I'd seen before.

The narrator (Heather Henderson) was excellent. My favorite qualities of a good narrator are their ability to alter their voice based on the various characters and to express the emotions appropriately that the author meant to express with their words. Henderson did an excellent job of changing her voice up based on who was speaking, which is amazing because there is quite an extensive cast of characters. I never had to guess at who was speaking and I really appreciate that when listening to an audiobook. Henderson also easily expressed the humor intrinsic in each line of the story and it kept the mood light and breezy when it could have easily taken on a darker tone.

The Plague and I was the perfect story for an audiobook. It's interesting, informative, and oh so funny. I'm curious to learn more about the author and am definitely planning on listening to more audiobooks by this narrator. All in all a very pleasant listening experience.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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