My Notorious Life: A Novel

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“Exquisitely written and richly detailed, My Notorious Life is a marvel. Kate Manning’s rags-to-riches Dickensian saga brings to vivid life the world of nineteenth-century New York City, in all its pitiful squalor and glittering opulence. I loved this novel.” —Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

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.
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About the author

Kate Manning is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Whitegirl. A former documentary television producer and winner of two Emmy Awards, she has written for the New York Times, Glamour, and More magazine, among other publications. She has taught writing in the English Department at Bard High School Early College and lives with her family in New York City.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Sep 10, 2013
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Pages
448
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ISBN
9781451698084
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Historical / General
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Political
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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I was not always a white girl. I used to be just Charlotte. A person named Charlotte Halsey. But when I met Milo, when I fell in love with him, I became White, like a lit light bulb is white. In the mirror there is my skin the color of sand, hair the color of butter, eyes blue as seawater. Just so bleachy white I am practically clear.

Milo is black, what they call “Black,” only not to me. To me he has mostly been just Milo. They say lovers can find each other just by using the sense of smell; that we are all really animals in that way, no different from dogs or deer. I know it’s true. I could find Milo blind in a room of men, the smell of him like pine trees in a snowy wind. I could pick him out just by the slow rising of his breath while he slept. So no, until this happened, up to the time of the assault, he was not black, not to me. He was Milo. He was my husband.
– from Whitegirl

As Kate Manning’s riveting debut novel begins, a thirty-five-year-old white woman lies secluded in her home overlooking the Pacific, unable to speak, recovering from a violent assault that has nearly taken her life. Her husband, a famous black actor, is in jail for the crime.

Is he guilty? She’s not sure. She remembers nothing of the assault. Longing for answers, she sifts through the history of their life together, trying to determine how two people once so in love might find themselves so ruined.

Charlotte Halsey and Milo Robicheaux met briefly in college in the 1970s, where she was a beautiful, troubled girl hungry for freedom, and he was the star athlete with Olympic dreams. Years later, when she is a successful model and he a famous sports hero turned actor, their paths cross again in New York City and they fall in love.

But their marriage is soon fraught with tension. As Milo’s celebrity skyrockets, motherhood ends Charlotte’s career, leaving her increasingly alienated from the man she believed she knew so well. Jealousy and mistrust grow between them even as they strive to build a life together against increasing odds.

A poignant anatomy of a marriage undone by the pressure of fame and the struggle for identity, Whitegirl is the arresting debut of a significant new voice in contemporary fiction.


From the Hardcover edition.
The #1 New York Times Bestseller

Now featuring a sneak peek at Christina's forthcoming novel A Piece of the World, coming February 2017.

Christina Baker Kline’s #1 New York Times bestselling novel—the captivating story of a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to long-buried questions…now with an extended scene that addresses the number one question readers ask, and an excerpt from Kline’s upcoming novel A Piece of the World.

“A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of America’s history. Beautiful.”—Ann Packer

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, and unexpected friendship.

 

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