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.
One summer night in Lower Manhattan in 1871, twelve-year-old Moth is pulled from her bed and sold as a servant to a finely dressed woman. 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. She also finds friendship with Dr. Sadie, a female physician struggling against the powerful forces of injustice. 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—which has destroyed the lives of other Bowery girls.
Ignored by society and 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.
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.
The virgin cure
Enjoyed and a quick read.
Luv this book!
I have read both of this authors books and I can honestly say that I am a fan. I love the historical facts, and the history...or "herstory" gained from reading her books. Entertaining and enlightening. Highly recommend. The books are very different yet similar, well worth the read. Hope she is working on a third book!