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The Virgin Cure [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Ami McKay
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 32.00
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Book Description

Oct. 25 2011
Following in the footsteps of The Birth House, her powerful debut novel, The Virgin Cure secures Ami McKay's place as one of our most beguiling storytellers. (Not that it has to… that is pretty much taken care of!)

"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 his wife and daughter forever, and Moth has never stopped imagining that one day they may be reunited – despite knowing in her heart what he chose over them. Her hard mother is barely making a living with her fortune-telling, sometimes for well-heeled clients, yet Moth is all too aware of how she really pays the rent.

Life would be so much better, Moth knows, if fortune had gone the other way - if only she'd had the luxury of a good family and some station in life. The young Moth spends her days wandering the streets of her own and better neighbourhoods, imagining what days are like for the wealthy women whose grand yet forbidding gardens she slips through when no one's looking. Yet every night Moth must return to the disease- and grief-ridden tenements she calls home.

The summer Moth turns twelve, her mother puts a halt to her explorations by selling her boots to a local vendor, convinced that Moth was planning to run away. Wanting to make the most of her every asset, she also sells Moth to a wealthy woman as a servant, 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, but also a locale frequented by New York's social elite. Their patronage supports the shadowy undersphere, where businesses can flourish if they truly understand the importance of wealth and social standing - and of keeping secrets. In that world Moth meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as an "infant school." There Moth finds the orderly solace she has always wanted, and begins to imagine herself embarking upon a new path.

Yet salvation does not come without its price: 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. That's not the worst of the situation, though. In a time and place where mysterious illnesses ravage those who haven't been cautious, no matter their social station, diseased men yearn for a "virgin cure" - thinking that deflowering a "fresh maid" can heal the incurable and tainted.

Through the friendship of Dr. Sadie, a female physician who works to help young women like her, Moth learns to question and observe the world around her. Moth's new friends are falling prey to fates both expected and forced upon them, yet she knows the law will not protect her, and that polite society ignores her. 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.

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Product Description


“Finely crafted and remarkably researched.... While set in the past, the book informs the modern dialogue on feminism, the sex trade, and choice.”
—Stacey May Fowles, The Walrus
“A worthy follow up to...The Birth House.... Character, setting, mood and plot are melded naturally to create a Dickensian world of deprivation and determination.”
Winnipeg Free Press
“A powerful novel, rooted in the same elements that made The Birth House both critically lauded and a bestseller.... One of McKay’s gifts and skills as a writer is her ability to utterly immerse the reader in her fictional world.... A powerful, affecting novel.”
—Robert J. Wiersema, National Post
“Fans of McKay’s bestselling novel The Birth House are going to love The Virgin Cure.... McKay’s vivid prose can trigger in readers the taste of a hot bowl of oyster stew, the reek of Chrystie Street tenement houses and the sound of a taffeta skirt’s hem brushing the floor of a concert saloon.... It’s difficult not to swiftly turn the pages of The Virgin Cure.
“A lovely novel, written in a style that is both clean and subtle. McKay’s voices are true; her characters sympathetic.... I’m certain readers will take to The Virgin Cure just as they did The Birth House.”
The Vancouver Sun

“A powerful new voice in Canadian writing.”
—Marjorie Anderson
“McKay is clearly a talented writer with a subtle sense of story, one that readers will look forward to hearing from, again and again.”
The Gazette
“McKay is such a wonderful storyteller with a strong sense of place and time.”
Library Journal

From the Back Cover

From the author of the number one Canadian bestseller The Birth House comes the story of a young girl abandoned to the streets of post-Civil War New York City.

"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."

Set on the streets of Lower Manhattan in 1871, The Virgin Cure is the story of Moth, a girl abandoned by her father and raised by a mother telling fortunes to the city's desperate women. One summer night, twelve-year-old Moth is pulled from her bed and sold as a servant to a finely dressed woman. It is this betrayal suffered at the hands of her own mother that changes her life forever.

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.

Moth also finds friendship with Dr. Sadie, a female physician struggling against the powerful forces of injustice, who teaches Moth to question and observe the world around her. 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—that has destroyed the lives of other Bowery girls.

Ignored by society, 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.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six stars if I could! Oct. 25 2011
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Ami McKay's first novel The Birth House was a phenomenal success. I have no doubt that her newly released second novel - The Virgin Cure - will also be bestseller. And, it's one of my favourite reads for 2011.

I was hooked from the opening line..."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."

And so begins the story of Moth, born into the slums of Manhattan in New York City. In 1871 Moth's mother sells her - to a wealthy woman looking for a young servant. When that situation becomes untenable, Moth runs away and finds herself alone on the streets with no prospects. Until the owner of a brothel in the Bowery that 'caters to men looking for young companions who are 'willing and clean' takes her in. In Miss Everett's "Infant School", the most desirous of all are virgins, for it is said that a virgin can cure a man of that most scurrilous of diseases - syphilis.

One bright light in Moth's life is Doctor Sadie, one of the first female physicians in New York City, who attends the girls at Miss Everett's establishment. The idea for the Virgin Cure was based on McKay's search into her own roots. Her great-great grandmother was a physician in New York City.

What did I love so much about this book? Well, everything! McKay's characterizations are rich, detailed and believable. I became so invested in Moth and Dr. Sadie, sharing their fears and dreams. Both of these characters are strong, strong female leads, staying true to themselves despite the obstacles put before them.

The setting is just as much of a player in the novel. McKay's depiction of 1870's New York conjured up vivid scenes crackling with detail.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story bound to be made into a movie Jan. 22 2012
Having loved Amy McKay's first novel, The Birth House, I had my fingers crossed that The Virgin Cure would not disappoint. And it did not. Set in the poorest neighbourhoods of New York City in the 1870s, McKay creates wonderful Dickensian characters. From the girl protagonist Moth and her fortune-telling mother, to Dr. Sadie, an independent woman who defies the conventions of the period, McKay creates characters who are rich and vivid. While the plot was, at some points, quite predictable, McKay's addition of historical sidebar anecdotes from the period more than make up for this weakness. The story is ripe for a screen adaptation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me rapt from first page to last Aug. 16 2013
By N. Rea
I loved this book - felt different from The Birth House which I also liked. But this was excellent. Looking forward to Ami's next book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Read Ever Jan. 14 2013
By candy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was an absolute excellent read and the best book I've ever read. You will not put the book down and it's like you yourself become part of it as you imagine yourself going through what this young girl did. It held my interest 100%.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once started, can't be put down... May 24 2012
By little lady blue TOP 100 REVIEWER
How could you not fall in love with a child of 12 with the name of Moth who begins her story with the words: `Mama sold me the summer I turned twelve'.
This is a poignant, touching story telling of the way things were for many people in New York in the late 1800's. It is historical fiction well researched to the point of giving the reader a true rendering of what life for a child such as Moth could very well have been, bringing to light some startling revelations about myths that were very popular at that time.
Beautifully written, easy to read with depictions of notices & advertisements of the day.
I wanted to give 5 stars but would have liked a bit more out of the ending. I felt the stories about some of the secondary characters were not complete. I would like to have known their fate.
Otherwise this book is well worth the time to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it! March 31 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
I had this book sitting on my shelf for almost a full year before picking it up. To be honest I bought a bunch of books in one day and just kind of overlooked this one. That was a mistake! This is one of the best books I've ever read. I loved Moth's story and her rise through the slums of New York. Every twist and turn had me riveted. You know a book is good when you fall asleep reading it and it hits you in the face. Highly recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Feb. 5 2014
By Karen
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the story and historical facts. Amazing stories of struggles and why people did what they did. The book was a

Good read
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not really worth the time Oct. 18 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was a book club choice so I finished it. If it hadn't been - I would not have bothered past the first 100 pages. It never rang as though it was a young girl telling the story - I really wasn't drawn in enough to care about any of the characters - and the sidebars are horribly distracting. Very disappointing after reading the Birth House - it was wonderful.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So good
I love The Birth House. Though this book was not as good, I was not disappointed!
I enjoy her style of writing!
Published 14 months ago by C. Forcier
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Enjoyed This Book!
This book was great because it had historical facts about London in the Victorian era, the characters were believable, the plot was good and it was written beautifully. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Laura
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, buy now
You already know the plot from the synopsis. And you probably think that a book set in 1872 New York will be hopelessly boring historical fiction. Read more
Published 21 months ago by J.R.
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better
I had high expectations, since The Birth House was so good. But this one didn't live up to those expectations. It felt like the book was ending just as the story was beginning.
Published 23 months ago by Jenna
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good read. Highly recommended.
This is the first book I've read in a while that I could not put down. My heart ached for Moth and I wanted to know her fate. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Kathy
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
This was a masterfully written novel. I was swept into the story, the characters and the century. A beautiful story of struggle, fall and redemption.
Published 24 months ago by Angelgirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
This book was amazing. LOVE Ami McKay. I read the birth house and loved that too. She's an amazing writing and draws you into the time peroid. Read more
Published on May 12 2012 by louise mcneill
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