Audiobook Review: MY NOTORIOUS LIFE by Kate Manning @SimonAudio

Format: Audio; 19 hours, 59 minutes
Narrator: Terry Donnelly
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Released: September 10, 2013
Source: Review copy from Publisher

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.

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.


I listened to the audiobook of Kate Manning’s MY NOTORIOUS LIFE, and it was amazing. The notorious life in question is that of Axie Muldoon, a poor orphan who became a very wealthy female physician and midwife in 19th century New York City. This epic tale was brilliantly narrated by Terry Donnelly, who I believe was channeling Axie as she read her memoirs. Ms. Donnelly’s performance truly captured Axie’s passion and courage.

Axie Muldoon is one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve read. She went from begging on the streets to earning $10,000 a week running a women’s clinic. But Axie wasn’t in it for the money. As a child and later as a midwife’s assistant, she witnessed the danger and hardship women faced with pregnancy and birth, especially poor women who couldn’t afford to care for the children they already had. However, her clients spanned all social classes, from the destitute to high society ladies. In addition to her midwifery service, Axie educated women about birth control and birth control products, something considered scandalous and immoral at the time. When a pregnancy occurred and was unwanted, she provided “Lunar Tablets” or abortions to women in need, which eventually landed her in a heap of trouble with the law.

MY NOTORIOUS LIFE stirred up a lot of emotions in me while reading it. Sorrow at the stories of the orphan train children. Anger at the treatment of women and the questionable legal system. Joy over the fact that Axie refused to let her enemies keep her down. Kate Manning has written a compelling novel about the plight of women and reproductive rights, and of course, the battle over these issues continues today.  Highly recommended!

Rating: 5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.