My Notorious Life
By Kate Manning
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781451698060, 448pp.)
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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.”
A former documentary television producer (for WNET-13, where she won two Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Brotherhood Award), Kate Manning has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Glamour, and More. She is the author of the novel, Whitegirl, and is an adjunct faculty member of the English Department at Bard High School Early College. She lives with her family in New York City.
(Emma Donoghue, author of Room)
Kate Manning has taken a little known nugget of history and spun it into a remarkable novel that is mesmerizing and resonant. Her New York City of the late nineteenth century is passionately evoked, and Axie Muldoon is as fierce and alive a character as I have read in recent fiction. In its exploration of a subject no less pressing now than it was over a hundred years ago, My Notorious Life is an essential novel for our time.”
(Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin)
“My Notorious Life is wonderful fun. The wit and verve of its unsinkable heroine make this novel a delight to read, even in its most harrowing passages. Beyond that, it’s a book that matters—now more than ever. Faithfully true to the time of its setting, it is also extremely relevant to ours."
(Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Color of Night)
“My Notorious Life is a must read for anyone who likes their novels smart, entertaining and provocative. Axie Muldoon's lively, remarkable story begins with an unexpected death and an identity switch and never lets up until the end. Masterful.”
(Whitney Otto, author of Eight Girls Taking Pictures)
“A rollicking romp through 19th-century American contraception inspired by the true story of a Manhattan midwife… highlight[s] controversies regarding ‘reproductive health’ that are still raging today. Axie’s profane Irish brogue is vividly recreated… her voice never fails to entertain.”
"Manning paints a vivid portrait of this daring yet deeply compassionate woman who is willing to flout convention and defy the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights… it’s the 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—that lend a human face to a this sensational figure."
(Publishers Weekly, starred review)