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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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The Virgin Cure: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 26, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 242 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061140325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061140327
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. McEwan VINE VOICE on May 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
To say that this is an absorbing novel about public health in New York City at the end of the 19th Century makes The Virgin Cure sound boring, which it most definitely is not. It is the story of Moth, a 12-year old girl from the slums who struggles to make her way in a city that cares little for the poor and less for the females among them.

Moth is sold by her mother as a ladies maid to a wealthy woman who abuses her. She flees and takes up a life of street thieving but finds she's not much good at it. Along comes Mae, an "almost whore" who introduces Moth to the world of Miss Everett, a madam who specializes in training young virgins to take their places as mistresses of New York's rich and powerful men. Through the brothel, Moth meets Dr. Sadie, one of the few female physicians in New York (or anywhere else). Dr. Sadie is employed to care for the girls in Miss Everett's "infant school" (yes, there really were such businesses) and ensure that they are "clean" for their ultimate male 'sponsors.'

Through the lens of Moth, readers get a view of life and death in a metropolis that is emerging as a world city. We visit the entertainment parlors and side show circuses of the Bowery, see 'how the other half lives' in the tenements of the lower east side, peek into beer gardens and oyster bars, tour homes of the wealthy, eavesdrop on the downstairs help and witness street life at its best and worst. Overall, The Virgin Cure is a slice of social history wrapped up in an engaging story whose focus is serious indeed.

One thing that amazed me about this novel is the myth for which it is named, the 'virgin cure.' This refers to the idea that a man could cure himself of syphilis by having intercourse with a virgin.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Moth's father left her, but not before naming her. He claimed to have asked the ancient pear tree for a name, and "Moth" was what the tree whispered back. After he left, Moth and her mother were always starving, until Moth's mother sold her into servitude. The woman Moth served was very abusive. With shorn hair, a multitude of bruises, and black eyes, Moth finally escaped. Upon returning to her mother, she discovered that she was nowhere to be found. Moth was left to be a beggar on the streets, and she quickly learned the `tricks of the trade'. One day, upon meeting Miss Everett, she joined a brothel. It was better than sleeping in the barrel that she had on the roof of a building. However, there was a strong belief in the `virgin cure' during the late 1800's. It was believed by many that sexual relations with a virgin would cure syphilis, a disease that ran rampant in the city at this time.

Moth narrates this story, and it is primarily about her. However, Dr. Sadie, a female physician, adds her own commentary in the margins, informing the reader about aspects of the time.

This is a very interesting novel, not only for its intriguing plot, but also for its historical accuracy. This story deals with a remarkable epoch, but it was also a time when there were many serious problems. It is estimated that there were over 30,000 children who lived on the streets in New York City. And Moth was one of them.

Although this is a work of historical fiction, it is very convincing. The characters are well developed, and the settings give us a glimpse into 19th century New York City. It is also a story of hope in troubled times. I loved this book!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Moth is a 12-year old girl who lives with her mother in a New York tenement. Mama is a self-proclaimed fortune teller and they scrape by on whatever she can collect from reading the futures of the people who come to their door. Her ultimate goal is to get Moth placed in an upscale home as a maid so that she can make money for their keep. That day eventually comes, and Moth is sold by her mother to live as a personal maid to Mrs. Wentworth, a wealthy matron living in a large and comfortable home. While this seems as though it would be a step up in her life, Mrs. Wentworth turns out to be an unpredictable and half-mad woman who abuses Moth at will.

With the help of the butler, Moth runs away and discovers that her mother has moved without notice. Not knowing where to go, she accepts the invitation of a beautiful, well-dressed girl to be introduced to Miss Everett, who unbeknownst to Moth, is the proprietress of a discreet brothel that caters to wealthy men looking for virgins. Seduced by the lavish lifestyle of Miss Everett's girls, she goes into training for the day she will be expected to be kept by a powerful man. She makes several friends, including the house physician, Dr. Sadie, who takes a special liking to Moth and tries to protect her and get her out of the brothel. She declines her help and procures a side job at an illusion show where she is introduced to Mr. Wentworth, whom she recognizes from a large portrait that hung on the Wentworth home's wall. He is immediately attracted to her and begins the ritual that will not only make him Moth's first client, but allow her to get revenge on the cruel Mrs. Wentworth.
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