Monday, July 22, 2013

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay - TLC Book Tours Review

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
HarperCollins 2012

Format? hardback
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Virgin Cure from the publisher.  However, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

Cover? I actually like the cover of the paperback better than the hardback

Title? perfect unbelievable stupidity that fueled the sale of virgins

Why? Old New York...I'm in...every single time.

Reminded Me of? The Gods of Gotham and The Crimson Petal and the White
Murder as a Fine Art

What Now?  I missed The Birth House but already have it downloaded.  

Golden Lines

"Where's my papa?" I would ask.  "Why isn't he here?"
"Wouldn't I like to know.  Maybe you should go and talk to the tree."
"What if I get lost?"
"Well, if you do, be sure not to cry about it.  There's wild hogs that run through the city at night, and they'd like nothing better than to eat a scared little girl like you." (4)

Mama sold me the summer I turned twelve. (9)

"Nestor! Nestor, come quick! I need you!"
Yes, Nestor, come quick. (64)

There was a rat inside Mrs. Riordan's mattress, moving underneath me.  I felt it come up through a hole at the end of the bed, slither past my ankle, and tug at the hem of my dress.  Not wanting to startle my host, I grabbed hold of my skirt and shook it, desperate to scare the rodent away.
"Shh, child, don't be afraid," Mrs. Riordan cooed in the dark.  "They'll settle down soon enough.  You'll see.  They're sweet, like children.  The more you don't want them around, the more they wish to be near you." (88)

In 1871, under common law, the age of consent was ten years of age.  (In Delaware it was seven). (124)

Dr. B. says the infirmary cannot afford to get involved.  Funding is difficult to come by, and the words whore, disease, and prostitution send benefactors running, their purse strings pulled tight.  (176)

Just like any other lie, once you'd passed it around, you couldn't take it back.  It didn't care if you were a baby or a whore.  There was no cure. (202)

In 1854 Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, founder of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, went out to Randalls Island and adopted a young girl named Katherine "Kitty" Barry. (285)

When the women ask what they can do, I tell them, "Teach your children to be honest; teach your daughters to be strong." (312)

Short and Sweet Summary

Abandoned by her father and sold by her mother, 12 year old Moth is on her own.  If she is to survive the wold of old New York, she must accept the life she's been given, take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, and keep moving forward.  From the home of a mentally ill wealthy woman closeted away by her husband to a brothel where virgins are prepared for those who can pay the highest bid, Moth learns how to live by her own her own hand and wit.  With a little help from Dr. Sadie, she might just outlive her peers.

What I Liked

Google Factor
Godfrey's Cordial
"the Slaughterhouses"
boot black boys
Eliza Adler
Five Points to Rag Pickers Row
Chrystie Street
Francine Gorossman
fainting couches
Miss Jane Clattermore's Home for Wandering Girls
effects of the corset
the Fagin school
Birnbaum's Fancy Goods and Haberdashery
Bowery Concert Hall, Tammany Hall, Mr. William Tweed
The Legend of Peter Stuyvesant's Pear Tree
Children's Aid Society and the orphan trains
birth control - French imported "safes," preventative powders and womb guards
New York Committee for Women's Concerns
1865 fire at the New York Medical College on Fourteenth St.
Dr. Valentine Mott, professor, College of Physicians and Surgeons, NY
syphilis epidemic
Helen Jewett, murdered Spring, 1836
female physicians
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and Katherine "Kitty" Barry
Circassian Beauty
ether used as as photographer's tool

Mrs. Riordan - I'm not sure if I'm just going through Downton Abbey withdrawals or what, but here's another character that reminds me of Mrs. Patmore.

Dr. Sadie - LOVED that the character was actually based on McKay's great-great-grandmother!  She's not the hero here...but she's definitely hero material.

the format - including Dr. Sadie's comments in the margins every few pages and the tidbits from songs, literature or poems, newspaper articles, other publications and advertisements and street posters from this particular time period and personal correspondence from Moth as well as Dr. Sadie's journals...further illustrates the chasm between the people who lived off the streets and the wealthy who lived big houses behind iron gates.

Moth - she lived by her words, be strong and honest.  What a kid.  Even though this story focuses on a pre-teen child, don't go thinking this is YA material.  When the age of consent is 10 years old, 12-13 years old is almost old age.

What I Didn't Like

Mrs. Wentworth - what an evil, horrible woman...obviously the mentally ill were left shut up in their homes wreaking havoc on the house servants left behind rather than risk embarrassment of the entire family.

The Virgin Cure - and the fact that intelligent people actually thought there was truth to this rumor...stupidity...and the more horrific idea that the more money a man had, the more likely he would be able to "buy" a virgin.

Mae - what a little bitch.  sorry, not sorry. Mean girls of 1871.

Overall Recommendation

If you like novels about old New York...the real old New York, not a romaticized version of it, with a focus on 30,000 people, many children wandering the streets, you'll love this book.  Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour
Tuesday, July 2nd: Life in the Thumb
Wednesday, July 3rd: BoundByWords
Saturday, July 6th: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, July 9th: Becca’s Byline
Wednesday, July 10th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, July 11th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, July 15th: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, July 16th: BookNAround
Wednesday, July 17th: Melissa Firman
Thursday, July 18th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, July 22nd: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, July 25th: From L.A. to LA


  1. I have The Birth House downloaded, too! Can't wait to read SOMETHING, ANYTHING of McKay's work.

    1. I hope The Birth House is as good as The Virgin Cure!

  2. I loved this book but ohemgee, wasn't it disturbing??

    1. Very much so, Audra. Nothing at all glossed over in The Virgin Cure.

  3. This sounds good. Thanks for the great review!

  4. This would be a book that I couldn't put down either ... I can't imagine living in that time and place .... *shudder*

    Thanks for being on the tour!