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The Virgin Cure: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 26, 2012
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“McKay captures the era’s atmosphere in such crisply rendered details. . . . Thought provoking and beautifully rendered.” (Booklist)
“So well researched is this novel, so deep does it take readers into the dark and desperate life of Lower Manhattan that it is easy to believe it was written 150 years ago as a treatise decrying the fate that awaited so many impoverished young girls.” (Associated Press)
From the Back Cover
From the author of the number one Canadian bestseller The Birth House comes the story of a young girl abandoned to the streets of post-Civil War New York City.
"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."
Set on the streets of Lower Manhattan in 1871, The Virgin Cure is the story of Moth, a girl abandoned by her father and raised by a mother telling fortunes to the city's desperate women. One summer night, twelve-year-old Moth is pulled from her bed and sold as a servant to a finely dressed woman. It is this betrayal suffered at the hands of her own mother that changes her life forever.
Knowing that her mother is so close while she is locked away in servitude, Moth bides her time until she can escape, only to find her old home deserted and her mother gone without a trace. Moth must struggle to survive alone in the murky world of the Bowery, a wild and lawless enclave filled with thieves, beggars, sideshow freaks, and prostitutes. She eventually meets Miss Everett, the proprietress of an "Infant School," a brothel that caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for "willing and clean" companions—desirable young virgins like Moth.
Moth also finds friendship with Dr. Sadie, a female physician struggling against the powerful forces of injustice, who teaches Moth to question and observe the world around her. The doctor hopes to protect Moth from falling prey to a terrible myth known as the "virgin cure"—the tragic belief that deflowering a "fresh maid" can cleanse the blood and heal men afflicted with syphilis—that has destroyed the lives of other Bowery girls.
Ignored by society, unprotected by the law, Moth dreams of independence. But there's a high price to pay for freedom, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.
Top customer reviews
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The book is based upon well researched facts and upon the character of the author's great great grandmother, a physician who worked with a small team of other female doctors (rare at the time) caring for the more than 30,000 children living on the streets of New York in 1870.
This is a beautiful book with believable characters that I cared for and worried about. It is another winner from a wonderful author.
In my area, syphilis is in an epidemic stage and the general public is not even aware.
It was a story about the hardship poor people in New York endured in the 19th century. It was especially hard for young girls. Little Moth was a burden for her poor mother who sold her to a wealthy woman as a servant. The little girl waited on the woman who due to mental illness, tortured her. The butler helped the girl escape after getting her to steal two pieces of jewelry.
The young was out on the street begging for a few pennies to eat. She was prey to an evil man, but managed to escape. A well dressed young woman found her and took her to the madam of an establishment that provided young virgins to men willing to pay.
As horrible as that sounds, the girl for the first time in her life had a warm, clean bed, good food and nice clothes. She was willing to do whatever she had to do rather than go to an orphan home.
The rest of the story describes how she used her common sense, wits and ingenuity to improve her life, in spite of her early suffering.
I loved this story and also loved The Witches of New York. I highly recommend it.
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