Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

I don't know which cover I like better.  I did like the novel, however.  I read Ami McKay's first novel, The Birth House and have been waiting for The Virgin Cure!  

Ami McKay wrote The Virgin Cure based on her great great grandmother's career as a female physician in New York during the late 1800's.  She was part of a revolution in allowing females to become doctors, and she worked with the poorest women--many of them prostitutes.  "The Virgin Cure" is a completely dumb idea floated around by men that if you have sex with a virgin, their "virgin blood" would cure them of syphilis.  This crazy and completely untrue rumor still floats around in today's world, mostly in poor countries.  Instead of curing these men, it usually gives the woman the disease.  

Based on this, Ami presents Moth, a 12 year old girl who lives with her mother--a gypsy fortune teller--in a very poor section of New York in 1871.  Her mother soon "sells" Moth to Mrs. Wentworth, a woman of some means to become a maid in her household.  Mrs. Wentworth quickly makes her true personality known--she's a crazy, abusive kook who delights in beating Moth with her fan until her face is bruised and her arms are black and blue.  Her husband is nowhere to be found--he's restricted his wife to the house, and she's not allowed to go out at all.  Instead, she promenades around the house at precisely 3 o'clock, and sticks to a strict daily schedule of tea, changes of clothing, and rituals.  

Moth gets away from Mrs. Wentworth's house of horror and soon finds herself recruited to become a whore--at Miss Everett's home.  She's a well know madam who grooms young virgins, presents them to wealthy men, and they pay a price to de-flower these girls.  If the girls are lucky, they are soon taken away to be mistresses, or move onto another house with "skills" that will make them money.  It's a huge racket that's supported by the police and politicians who run New York.  Moth lies about her age and says she's 15.  She has no where else to go, and even when Dr. Sadie (the female physician who cares for the young ladies) befriends Moth and tries to get her away from Miss Everett's home, she decides it's the only way she can make a living and stay off the streets.

Will Moth stay at Miss Everett's and become a prostitute?  Can Dr. Sadie save her?   I have to say through most of the novel I was slightly cringing, imaging Moth going through this process of losing her virginity and losing herself in the process.  I kept hoping something good would happen and she'd find another solution.  I can't tell you if she does, cause that would give away the rest of the story!  But Dr. Sadie plays a huge role in this novel, and provides another point of view through her journal entries throughout the chapters.  The New York of the 1870's is brilliantly described by the author, and fully pulls you into the worlds of Moth.  It was hard to remember Moth was only a little girl--12--and facing huge decisions that only an adult should face.  

This is a great novel for fans of historical fiction, women's history, and New York.  Rating:  4/5 for historical details and a solid story.

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