The Virgin Cure – Ami McKay

From Goodreads: “The much-anticipated follow-up to the phenomenon that is The Birth HouseThe Virgin Cure secures Ami McKay’s place as one of our most beguiling storytellers.

“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.” So begins The Virgin Cure, a novel set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. As a young child, Moth’s father smiled, tipped his hat and walked away from her forever. The summer she turned twelve, her mother sold her as a servant to a wealthy woman, with no intention of ever seeing her again.

These betrayals lead Moth to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, filled with house-thieves, pickpockets, beggars, sideshow freaks and prostitutes, where eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as “The Infant School.” Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are “willing and clean,” and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth.

Through the friendship of Dr. Sadie, a female physician, Moth learns to question and observe the world around her, where her new friends are falling prey to the myth of the “virgin cure”–that deflowering a “fresh maid” can heal the incurable and tainted. She knows the law will not protect her, that polite society ignores her, and still she dreams of answering to no one but herself. There’s a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.”

I’m going in to this review as an Ami McKay virgin. I still have not gotten around to reading The Birth House before picking this book up. However, after reading The Virgin Cure, The Birth House is now at the top of my TBR pile!

Ami McKay writes a captivating story about tough times in the slums for a 12-year-old girl in 1871. Not having many options in life, Moth must take care of herself with any means possible. The means? Becoming a servant to a horribly abusive woman, and then escaping to a life much too old for her. The story follows Moth from her days in the slums, to her term in a brothel and her friendships along the way.

The story is shown through the eyes of a naive young girl struggling in the world. Every paragraph in this book had me wanting more. Ami is a talented writer, and her story of Moth is a touching tribute to the old world and life in the slums.

I don’t really know how else to describe this book. One of a kind? An instant classic? Too many adjectives, so little time!

Give this book a go, it will be worth it!

Rating – 4.5/5

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