Reviews for My Notorious Life
Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
These fictionalized pages from the diary of the infamous Madame X, a self-proclaimed "expert in the subterranean sanguinary aspects of feminine existence," tell a compelling and tragic (in its way) success story. Manning (White Girl, 2002) convincingly presents willful nineteenth-century child Axie Muldoon, based on an actual person, who was born of piss-poor Irish immigrants but was as prideful as the queen herself. And it's a good thing too, or else Axie--later to become Mrs. Anne Jones then Madame DeBeausacq then Madame X--might have died of starvation or hypothermia on the streets of an indifferent New York City. Or worse, she might have died in childbirth like her mother. But witnessing 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, followed by her creation of Madame X's above-and-around-the-law career vividly and movingly portray an unsympathetic world for women. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 August #1
A rollicking romp through 19th-century American contraception inspired by the true story of a Manhattan midwife. In 1860, Axie, née Annie, is "rescued" from a New York slum along with her siblings and sent West on an orphan train. In the Illinois prairie, Axie's younger sister Dutchie and brother Joe find homes, but the irascible 12-year old is sent back to New York along with Charlie, another street-wise urchin. Axie reunites with her mother, but her joy is short-lived: After "Mam" delivers an infant who dies shortly after birth, Mam herself expires of childbed fever at the home of Mrs. Evans, a midwife and, some say, abortionist. Truly orphaned this time, Axie is apprenticed to Mrs. Evans and by the age of 16, is an accomplished midwife's assistant who has picked up many helpful hints about all aspects of pregnancy, including avoiding it and ending it. After her mentor's death, Axie, who is now married to Charlie, a would-be journalist, concocts and peddles a female medication that, often enough, has a side effect of inducing miscarriage. Aided by Charlie's marketing smarts, Axie is soon running a thriving and lucrative business, dispensing pills, sex education, birth control advice and, when necessary to help her clients avert certain death or ruin, the occasional first trimester abortion. Her clients range from tenement dwellers to Manhattan's upper crust, and while amassing tremendous wealth, Axie, operating as Madame DeBeausacq, sees her main mission as freeing women from the consequences of men's unbridled lust and profligacy. However, when Manhattan's penny tabloids, egged on by two disgruntled doctors, foment a scandal accusing "Madame X" of child murder and infant trafficking, Axie is consigned to Manhattan's notorious Tombs jail. 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. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Express Reviews
Annie (Axie) Muldoon Jones narrates her rise from overcrowded tenement to Fifth Avenue mansion. Sent west by her widowed mother on the orphan train with her siblings, 13-year-old Axie is unadoptable because of her coarse language and fierce anger. Returning to New York City, she witnesses her mother's death from complications of childbirth and becomes an apprentice to a midwife. Through reading, observation, and practice Axie develops skills to ensure safe deliveries and learns about formulas to prevent pregnancies as well as ways to remove "obstructions" from wombs. Axie's Female Lunar Power, which can induce miscarriages, serves as the start of a profitable mail-order business developed by her husband, Charlie, another orphan train reject. Besides delivering babies, Axie discreetly assists in terminating pregnancies for the rich, who pay handsomely, and the poor, who pay little. Wealth buys Axie clothes and mansions but not respectability. Pursued by Anthony Comstock, Chairman of the Society of the Supression of Vice, and reviled by the press, Axie faces ruin and imprisonment. Verdict Despite the tragic subject matter, Manning's (Whitegirl) narrative generates little emotional engagement. Except for her economic circumstances, Axie barely changes. Her nemesis, Comstock, receives even less character development. Based in part on the story of a real-life 19th-century midwife, the novel might find an audience in those curious about times when women had little knowledge about reproduction and few options to prevent multiple pregnancies. [See Prepub Alert, 4/1/13.]--Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 June #4
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. Manning's Axie Muldoon endured a scrappy childhood as the fierce and foul-mouthed eldest daughter of Irish immigrants living amidst the filth of lower Manhattan. She began her midwifery apprenticeship at 14, and learned when to administer "Lunar Tablets for the relief of Female Obstruction," before becoming the renowned Madame X with a thriving business (her newspaper ad reads "Renowned Female Physician") of her own. 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. While Muldoon's public battle against the "lying weevils and scandalmongers of the New York press" as well as old codger Comstock--the Chairman of the Society for the Suppression of Vice--take center stage throughout the latter half, 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. Agent: Sarah Burnes, The Gernert Agency. (Sept.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC