From #1 international bestselling author Ami McKay comes The Virgin Cure, the story of a young girl abandoned and forced to fend for herself in the poverty and treachery of post-Civil War New York City.
McKay, whose debut novel The Birth House made headlines around the world, returns with a resonant tale inspired by her own great-great-grandmother’s experiences as a pioneer of women’s medicine in nineteenth-century New York.
In a powerful novel that recalls the evocative fiction Anita Shreve, Annie Proulx, and Joanne Harris, Ami McKay brings to light the story of early, forward-thinking social warriors, creating a narrative that readers will find inspiring, poignant, adventure-filled, and utterly unforgettable.
McKay's harsh yet hopeful second novel (after The Birth House) explores how women's lives were shaped by their socioeconomic status in the bleak tenements of 1870s lower Manhattan. Moth is 12 years old and living with her mother, a "slum-house mystic" who loots fire-gutted properties. Struggling to make ends meet, Moth's mother sells her daughter to Mrs. Wentworth as a maid, a situation in which Moth is regularly abused by her perverse guardian. Aided by a kind butler, Moth escapes to Miss Everett, who trains girls in social etiquette only to auction off their virginity. Miss Everett considers herself a cut above her competitors, as she does not sell her charges as "Virgin Cures," whose efficacy hinges on the superstition that a man can be healed of disease if he sleeps with a virgo intacta. Moth soon becomes friends with Dr. Sadie (based on the author's great-great grandmother), a female physician who entreats Moth to avoid life in a brothel, suggesting instead that she seek out adoption by a good family. Surrounded by women who fight to survive in vastly different ways, Moth must assess her desire to escape poverty in light of its daunting potential costs.