Like many of you, I’ve been waiting two years for Ami McKay’s newest book, “The Virgin Cure” and I gotta say, it was well worth the wait! It isn’t a secret that I’m a fan of Ami’s, I’ve been an advocate since her first book “The Birth House” simply because she’s got a real talent when it comes to her art.
Set against a 1871 Lower Manhattan backdrop, we’re first introduced to a young female physician by the name of Dr. Sadie who sets the stage to this charming historical fiction book. She has written a note to the reader that reads,
In the pages that follow, you will find her story, told in her own words, along with occasional notes from my hand.
In true Ami McKay form, the “occasional notes” are sidebars filled with little tidbits of information and beautiful diagrams. The character Dr. Sadie was based on Ami McKay’s great great grandmother, Dr. Sarah Fonda Mackintosh. She was one of the first graduates of The Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children.
Moth is a resilient little girl who, at the ripe age of 12 yearns for a simple hug from her Mother (who’s unwilling to provide one). She’s growing up in the slums of New York City where people expect the worst from you the second you’re old enough to stand. Her Mother works as a Gypsy Fortune Teller and many in the town thinks she’s crazy, in relation to how she behaved when Moth’s Father ran off with another woman in town. Needless to say, they don’t have two nickles to rub together. So when Moth’s Mother gets the opportunity to sell her daughter as a servant to a woman by the name of Mrs. Wentworth, she strikes while the iron’s hot and sells her daughter for a small amount of coins.
Using her “street sense”, Moth spends endless hours looking after every need Mrs. Wentworth requests, bathing, clothing, feeding, etc… Hurt and betrayed from her Mother she composes a letter to her Mother that is likely never sent, it reads,
I am doing my best to please Mrs. Wentworth.
I hope my wage proves to be enough.
Did you know I was to be a lady’s maid?
It’s better than serving in teh scullery, but more
difficult than you can imagine.
I have much to learn.
I miss you.
I miss hearing my name.
There is only so much a young girl can take after being treated much worse than your average maid and Moth has to figure out a way to make it in the world with no money and the clothes on her back. She winds up in a completely different universe when she walks into the doors of Miss Everett’s; a brothel known as ‘The Infant School’. Born with ‘Black Dutch’ characteristics, Miss Everett ignores Dr. Sadie’s suggestion that Moth looks too young and sees nothing but dollar signs when she takes Moth under her wing to become a ‘near whore’.
Moth, of course is willing to do whatever it takes to make friends and have a regular meal placed in front of her every day, but at what cost? We enter a world with this young girl, who is growing up in a world that brings true meaning to the term, ‘survival of the fittest’. Ami McKay has created yet another story that leaves you wanting more. She has the ability to create characters that leave a lasting impression on you. I read this book in one sitting in the Porter lounge and on the first leg of my plane ride home to a wedding in August and I’ve been pushing the book on friends and family ever since, because McKay has written a book that deserves a full afternoon of reading.
There is also a really fabulous book trailer attached to this book as well that is worth checking out: