February 5, 2012

Adult Book Review: The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

The Virgin Cure

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
Published by Knopf Canada October 2011
Reviewed from personal copy

"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.

My Thoughts:

      In The Virgin Cure we meet Moth. A young girl thrust into the world of cruelty much too soon. I adored her. I wanted to lift her out of the book and take care of her, protect her and give her the care her mother never did. I am fascinated by the time period in this story, the role of women, the power of men, its amazing how far we've come in our society, but it's also clear there is still a long way to go. I loved that the character Dr. Sadie was based on a relative of Ami's, and that it was family history that inspired the book. I now find myself researching that period in time (recommendations welcome) I'm reading anything I can find on it. It's a testament to the book itself that it has inspired new interest in me. 
     I am a huge fan of Ami McKay. The Birth House (her other novel) is one of my all time favourites and being that it's found in the "adult" section of the library that is saying a lot. I've been waiting for this, her second novel for what seems like forever, but for an author of Ami's talent it's worth the wait. She is a skilled story teller. Her words are like magic on the page, and I often found myself re-reading line after line so I could soak up and savour the beauty in each and every word.  Highly Recommended.


  1. Wow, I hadn't heard of this title or this author, but that synopsis has really grabbed me and your recommendation has sealed the deal. Onto the wishlist it goes.

  2. Yay! You have made me very happy with this review. I really enjoyed The Birth House as well and was worried that her second novel might not live up to it. I agree, Ami McKay is very talented and I hope we see even more from her!

  3. I want to read both of her books! I've heard nothing but awesome things about them!! I can't wait, especially after reading your amazing review!! Glad to hear her writing is as amazing as I believe it to be :)

  4. Okay, I am SO reading this book!!!

  5. I really, really enjoyed The Birth House so The Virgin Cure is on my TBR List! Great review!!!