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The Impossible Girl Paperback – September 18, 2018
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“The characters and the vivid descriptions bring midcentury graveyards to life…Kang places the reader in the midst of Cora’s life.” —Gumshoe Review
“The setting is expertly laid out, detailed, and realistic, and the characters are relatable and likable…Lydia Kang’s writing is great and Cora Lee is not a character to soon be forgotten.” —All About Romance
“Kang really knows how to develop her world and it’s so very easy to get lost in it…There were so many unexpected twists.” —Broken Teepee
"This book had a little bit of everything, romance, mystery, fantasy, and history…Highly recommend.” —The LitBitch
“This book has such a strong main character—Cora Lee—and she is full of intrigue and mystery…This is an intense and gripping book.” —Always With a Book
“If you like the world of grave robbing with a strong female protagonist who fights for her life on the daily, this is a great read for you.” —Where the Reader Grows
“The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang is an impossibly good read…The writing is beautiful and lyrical, the atmosphere is haunting, and the mystery is engaging. Fans of novels with strong heroines, period pieces, and/or murder mysteries will all find something to love in this book.” —Hypable
“The Impossible Girl was exceptional…This book was an easy five stars. Every detail was perfect.” —Fictionist Magazine
“A cat-and-mouse story of intrigue, set in 1850 and featuring a strong-willed female protagonist striving to stay one step ahead of an unknown foe who would murder her for profit, The Impossible Girl is captivating through and through. Highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of historical murder mysteries!” —Midwest Book Review
“Kang creates a vividly detailed world with so much atmosphere and intricate pieces…There’s a bit of romance, loads of history, and a splash of fantasy that transforms this book into an impossibly great read.” —Fangirlish
About the Author
Lydia Kang is a physician and the author of A Beautiful Poison. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine. She currently lives in the Midwest with her family, where she continues to practice internal medicine. Visit her at www.lydiakang.com.
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With an oversupply of bodies of the poor, who died mainly of mundane, ordinary causes such as malnutrition or common diseases, the more exotic and anomalous maladies and deformations were in high demand: people with tumors, for example, or vestigial tails, three breasts, six toes, or, let's say, two hearts even. These more exotic corpses were in demand both for scientific research and for prurient interest in museums or public exhibitions.
But two hearts? That's impossible, isn't it? Except for the case of our heroine, Cora Lee, illegitimate daughter of a disgraced socialite and a Chinese sailor. Cora never knew her parents and was raised by her Aunt Charlotte, who is recently deceased as this book begins. The doctor who attended Cora's birth was indiscreet about baby Cora's abnormality, so the medical and scientific world has been aware that a half Chinese girl (identity unknown) with two hearts was born in NYC.
To keep Cora safe, Aunt Charlotte had raised her as a boy, Jacob, hoping the rumors about the "Impossible Girl" would die out and that no suspicion would fall on "boy" Jacob. After puberty, both Cora/Jacob co-exist, as Cora during the day and Jacob at night, working as resurrectionists supplying cadavers for scientific research. Cora has chosen this profession in the hopes that she can always keep abreast of any rumors about her or requests to find that two-hearted girl.
And so it goes. Cora finds competition in this grave robbing business heating up. One competitor is medical student Theo, in need of funds. They feel an attraction to each other but mutual trust is quite another thing. And there are other competitors, many quite unsavory. In addition, we have unscrupulous businessmen looking for "freaks of nature" to make money from by charging admission to their museums or exhibitions.
When a list of body requests comes out with the most expensive item being a half Chinese girl with two hearts, things really start to heat up for Cora. It's hard for her to know who to trust, to know who is aware that she is the girl with two hearts. How will she keep herself safe if it becomes known that she is the one everyone is looking for?
Well, just stay tuned. There are lots of bad and seemingly bad guys here, lots of good and seemingly good guys, and an unexpected really bad guy. There are a good amount of twists in here and I had not twigged on to who was the most evil of the evils until the reveal at the end.
The story and plot are good enough to hold one's interest, the author is a medical doctor and knows her medical information, but the writing style is basic and uninspired. In other words, literature this ain't. And Cora's final solution to her problem, the way she thinks she can save herself seemed to me to be very ill thought out and impractical, even if interesting from a medical point of view.
There's a lot that's improbable and impractical here but I kept on reading it all anyway. Just had to find out how it all was going to end.
Cora/Jacob made a living selling unusual bodies to doctors for dissections or to museums for show. This allowed her to keep an eye on the business and be alerted when rumors of a girl with two hearts surfaced. However, when individuals with unique medical conditions started dying under suspicious circumstances, Cora realized that she might be next.
This is a very well-written book that really puts you in the setting! I don’t usually read historical fiction, instead preferring sci-fi/fantasy, but I couldn’t put this one down. I had to find out what would happen to Cora/Jacob! I loved the use of period slang (flash) to really make the story real. It is part mystery, part historical fiction, part romance, and all very interesting! I highly recommend it!
The book begins in Manhattan in 1850 with the birth of Cora Lee. Her mother come from a privileged family and she has an affair with an unknown immigrant. Cora’s mother is disowned and must make her way alone. After her death, Cora must also survive on her own. She takes up a career as a resurrectionist, digging up dead bodies to sell to doctors and medical schools. Abnormal bodies are desirable and pay the best. However, Cora is believed to have been born with two hearts and is a prized body herself. She tries to keep herself safe and her business profitable despite increasing competition. Then it appears that the people with physical anomalies are dying before their time. Cora does not know who to trust and her life is in danger.
I think that Dr. Kang is a very good story teller. I always get sucked in and can’t wait to find out what happens next. The two books that I have read each feature strong women who are unconventional for their time, which I enjoy. The mystery is good and will keep you guessing to the end. There are also interesting bits about medical history and the evolution of ethics in the field.
I loved the book for it's originality and it's quirkiness. I loved the twists and turns the story took. I don't want to give any spoilers, but if you love mysteries and time period books, with just a bit of macabre thrown in, you'll love this book.
I have only stopped reading about five books in my life, out of the tens of thousands I have read in my life, and this was one of them that I had to put down unread:(
Top international reviews
20 years later and Cora is now working as a resurrectionist, acquiring bodies for the Anatomists of New York. She specialises in finding the bodies of those with queer and unusual ailments, the things that Anatomists will pay the highest prices for. This speciality also helps her keep her ear to the ground so she would know if anyone were searching for anyone with her particular malady.
When people on her special list start to die unnatural deaths Cora no longer knows who she can trust or where to turn. Whoever the killer is, it is clear they are coming for her too. Can she find the killer and escape there clutches or will she be the next victim and body on display?
I’ve always had a love for the era that this book was set in and a long standing fascination with the history of medicine so this instantly struck me as the kind of book I’d enjoy. I was right; I was enthralled by this book from the opening pages and couldn’t put it down. The author has facts masterfully interlaced with fiction and it was clear that she had taken plenty of time researching the flagitious history of the study of anatomy. There were many times it was easy to forget I was reading a work of fiction
This book is beautifully written and the author was careful to use language appropriate to the time. While this often led to me having to look things up on google it helped the story overall and the only times I really felt confused is when Cora was dressed as her ‘brother’ Jacob but was still referred to as ‘Cora’ and using female pronouns.
This remarkable story had me on the edge of my seat and unable to tear myself away as it reached its climax. Who was the killer? Who had betrayed Cora and was seeking to profit from her demise? Will her secret be revealed to the world or would she escape? I couldn’t wait to find out and read the majority of the book in one sitting as I had to know how it ended.
‘The Impossible Girl’ is an incredible novel that you will not only enjoy reading but it will also teach you a lot about how we came to understand the human body as we do today. A great read for anyone who loves general fiction, historical fiction, crime and mystery.
⚠️ This book contains death, violence, racism, sexism & scenes of a sexual nature ⚠️
The story revolves around an unusual lady resurrectionist ('grave robber') from a time when this was a forbidden but supported means of advancing medical knowledge. I enjoyed the well placed bits of historical NY slang and the accurate but not overwhelming medical imagery in the story.
Despite being a very modern (and US based) take on such a story, I couldn't help but be reminded of Charles Dickens writing with the combination of historical setting and evocative characters in the book.
I look forward to more novels from the author.