Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review: The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

The Virgin Cure is the story of Moth, an impoverished girl born in the late 1800s in the slums of New York.  There aren't many opportunities for the illegitimate daughter of a fortune teller and a father who disappeared, and, at the age of twelve, Moth's mother sells her to a cruel mistress as a maid and then disappears.  When Moth escapes and finds her mother gone, she is forced to take the best opportunity offered to her - becoming a high class prostitute-in-training.  Her only hope comes in the form of a female doctor who befriends her and hopes to protect her from becoming a victim of the myth of the virgin cure - the popular idea that deflowering a virgin could cure diseases such as syphilis.

I was impressed.  I think McKay really does a great job of crossing the line between literary fiction and women's fiction.  I'm not sure I can squarely put her in either category, which is a positive thing in my opinion.  Too often literary fiction addresses ideas and neglects the story; conversely, women's fiction addresses the story and neglects the ideas.  I also think women's fiction can be too easily placed in a box that has limited appeal.  While I think this book will primarily appeal to women, I think it's something that can be read and enjoyed by men as well.  As far as quality goes, absolutely no issues.

Entertainment Value
Oh man.  I read it in two sittings, even though it's a fairly dense book, in terms of length as well as depth.  It was just absolutely engrossing.  I loved Moth so much.  She's a very young heroine and, due to her chosen profession, it's easy to forget that, but McKay does a great job of reminding the reader at times just how young Moth is.  It's a fascinating and heartbreaking story and I don't think McKay resorts to sentimentality to get her points across. 

I highly recommend giving this one a try.  It's deep, but accessible and absolutely fascinating.  Moth is a wonderful character.  My only dislike were the bits of information inserted into the story by Dr. Sadie.  Most of them were historical notes and I didn't really think they contributed much to the story, even in terms of cultural and historical relevance.  If the author describes a dress, for example, I don't need an additional side note with a more in-depth description of the dress.  Those were easily avoided though and the rest of the story completely made up for it.  Definitely give this one a try.

A big thank you to TLC for including me on this tour.  You can click here to see a full list of blogs participating



  1. This sounds absolutely fabulous!! I MUST read it. Your description of it reminds me of Cutting for Stone.. dense in length and depth but still engrossing. I'm adding it to the top of my to-read list!

  2. Moth certainly has an unusual name, but then again many of the literary characters that I really love have unusual names as well. Sounds like Moth will find a place in my heart!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  3. This sounds incredibly interesting. I'm definitely adding it to the list! Thanks!