Monday, January 30, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald (Narrated by Heather Henderson )

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Pub. Date: April 8th, 2016

Author: Betty MacDonald
Narrator: Heather Henderson

Length: 8 hours 48 minutes

Genre: Humor, Memoir

Book Series: Betty MacDonald Memoirs #2


The Plague and I recounts MacDonald's experiences in a Seattle sanitarium, where the author spent almost a year (1938-39) battling tuberculosis. The White Plague was no laughing matter, but MacDonald nonetheless makes a sprightly tale of her brush with something deadly.

What Did I Think About the Book?

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.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

Sadly the cover does nothing for me. It very plain and, other than having the picture of the author in the bottom corner, doesn't really offer anything of interest to look at. I'm not even a very big fan of the color scheme. So much more could have been done to make it appealing.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions for a free audiobook copy of The Plague and I in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own. Please see below for more information about the author, narrator, and the rest of the blog tour.

About the Author: Betty Macdonald

Betty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs.
Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald's Ma and Pa Kettle characters.

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

About the Narrator: Heather Henderson

Heather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts. Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire; and Sharon Creech's The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children's Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine. She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry. In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald's The Egg and I.

The Plague and I Blog Tour Schedule

Jan. 11: A Page To Turn (Giveaway, Spotlight, & Audio Excerpt)
Jan. 12: Dab of Darkness (Review & Giveaway)
Jan. 13: The Pursuit of Bookishness (Review, Giveaway, Spotlight, & Audio Excerpt)
Jan. 14: terriluvsbooks (Spotlight)
Jan. 15: Kristine Hallways (Review, Giveaway, & Audio Excerpt)
Jan. 16: Blogger Nicole (Spotlight)
Jan. 17: Jorie Loves A Story (Review)
Jan. 18: Ali the Dragon Slayer (Review)
Jan. 19: The Bookworm Lodge (Spotlight)
Jan. 24: Never 2 Many 2 Read (Review & Giveaway)
Jan. 25: Country Girl Bookaholic (Giveaway, Spotlight, & Audio Excerpt)
Jan. 26: He Said Books Or Me (Review)
Jan. 27: Bound4Escape (Review)
Jan. 28: Working Mommy (Review & Giveaway)
Jan. 29: Avid Book Collector (Review, Giveaway, Spotlight, & Audio Excerpt)
Jan. 30: A Literary Vacation (Review)
Jan. 31: January Gray Reviews (Review)


  1. Thank you so much for your review and for participating in our audiobook tour. I'm so glad you enjoyed this audiobook and I so agree about Heather Henderson's narration. Heather was more than the perfect narrator for Betty MacDonald, she co-produced these memoirs and they were her initiative. I couldn't be more thankful that she suggested them.

    The cover is based on the original cover, but I agree, so much more could have been done with it. I'm particularly pleased with the covers for "Anybody Can Do Anything" and "Onions in the Stew," which I think turned out wonderfully. Perhaps we'll revisit the cover for "The Plague and I" - these audiobooks have been a labor of love for all concerned and we are so pleased to know that Betty MacDonald is being discovered again.

    I note, by the way, that you enjoy comparing the movie to the book. Betty MacDonald's first memoir, "The Egg and I," is the one she is best remembered for (along with the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children's books). It was made into a movie starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray - then at the height of their stardom. You might enjoy comparing those two - although you'd have to get a copy of the movie from Turner Classic Movies or something like that. :)

    We're publishing all four of Betty MacDonald's memoirs in audio, so I hope you'll join us for the next two, "Anybody Can Do Anything" and "Onions in the Stew." We've also published Paula Becker's biography about Betty MacDonald. :)

  2. Thank you so much, Carlyn, for stopping by and commenting! I will definitely look for the movie adaptation of The Egg and I!