Halse, Laurie Anderson
This book is a fictional account of actual events in Philadelphia, where one of the
worst epidemics in the United States took place in 1793. The fact that Philadelphia was the capital of the fledling
United States government in 1793 adds to the historical interest. Mattie Cook, the protagonist, is a somewhat unwilling
helper to her mother, who is a widow and runs a coffeehouse. When the fever breaks out, Mattie's mother sends her to
the country with her grandfather. The pair never make it, and Mattie is eventually left to make her own way in the fever-plagued
city. The story is engaging and somewhat suspenseful, but their is a little too much of a feeling that Anderson is "punching
the card" to get Mattie to the sites of importance during the epidemic, especially when Anderson gives Mattie a fictional
romantic interest who is an apprentice to a real and very colorful prominent Philadelphia family. On the other hand,
the story features a proactive female protagonist and depictions of African-Americans during the period that are not slaves.
In fact, the African Free Society in Philadelphia saved many people when they acted as nurses for the ill, first from the
belief that they could not contract the disease, and later, well, because they were willing.