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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.
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Top customer reviews
The young girl's life receives still another knock when, at age 12, her mother sells her as a servant to a rich woman. The girl's elation at having food and shelter, not to mention decent clothing, is short lived when her mistress turns out to be a sadist who takes out her own misery with a philandering husband on her servant. Finally, in desperation, Moth runs away, only to find out her mother has moved - and she can only make her own way on the streets, begging and stealing.
Next, she meets another young woman who takes her to the house where she lives, a brothel owned by a woman who shelters young girls in order to sell them as virgins. After learning the manners and skills of deportment expected of proper young ladies, Moth is finally repelled at the sexuality expected as the price of her luxurious new life. Once more she runs away, this time to a safe house owned by a humane woman physician.
Although the plot of author McKay's novel is engaging and credible, it is the rich portrait of 19th century life in America's largest city with overwhelming poverty. The author's details of the period, transportation, the homes of the impoverished as well as their wealthy employers let's us leave the scenes as though we had actually been there while the drama unfolded. To add to the credibility, the author inserts topical sidebars, often dated, which reinforce the historical situations of the fiction. Of particular note in "The Virgin Cure", too, is the skill with which author McKay handles first person prose which can be monotonous in lesser hands. Not an easy task, her descriptions and dialogue were smooth, slick, and fast paced.
For a book that does for New York what Charles Dickens did for London, I recommend Ami McKay's "The Virgin Cure" as an important reading experience.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The most endearing was the child called Moth.Read more