The backstory: I've been eager to read The Virgin Cure, Ami McKay's second novel, since Amy at Amy Reads reviewed it last fall when it was released in Canada.
The basics: The Virgin Cure is the story of Moth, a 12-year-old girl in New York City in 1871. Moth's father left when she was three, and her mother, a gypsy, lives in poverty so deep on Chrystie Street, she sells Moth as a servant to a rich woman.
My thoughts: Although Moth narrates her story, the reader is treated to helpful and explanatory notes in the text from Dr. Sadie, a female physician who works with poor women and children. With this balance, McKay manages to have a pure narrative from a young girl and provides the reader with context about the world in which Moth lives.
While the cover of this novel seems relatively innocuous, its title references something deeply sinister, and the book itself is filled with a sad story. The Virgin Cure is the kind of historical fiction that shakes readers to their cores. As I read, I desperately wanted to believe Moth's world didn't exist. I wanted to believe this novel was more fiction than history. I wanted to believe the experiences of girls like Moth are not part of our shared history. As I read A People's History of the United States earlier this year, I was struck by the statistics of orphans and poverty in the cities, but reading this novel made those numbers so much more real to me. It's a reminder why I continue to prefer the emotional resonance of fiction to non-fiction.
The verdict: The Virgin Cure wrecked me emotionally. McKay's powerful characters shined, and I felt their despair. While it's a story I wish weren't true, it's certainly a story that needed telling, and McKay proves she's a master of gritty historical fiction.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: June 26, 2012
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Virgin Cure from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)
Want more? Visit all the tour stops, stop by Ami McKay's website, find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or browse her boards on Pinterest.
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