Review by Booklist Review
The price of virtue is both the literal and figurative question at the heart of McKay's novel. In 1871 New York, a fortune-teller's 12-year-old daughter struggles to survive the cutthroat streets of the city's slums, eventually landing at a brothel that specializes in selling virgins; fortunately, she meets a woman doctor determined to save her from what lies ahead. McKay, author of The Birth House (2006), captures the era's atmosphere in such crisply rendered details as the glow of a gas lamp, or the nicknames of the street toughs. Although McKay's use of notes from the doctor, fabricated newspaper articles, and excerpts from period texts to support the narrative takes some getting used to, the girl's story has enough momentum to carry the day. McKay has created an engaging and wonderfully well-developed narrator, all the more impressive because even though she is among society's most powerless, her determination inspires more admiration than pity. Thought provoking and beautifully rendered, The Virgin Cure explores both the horrors people are capable of inflicting and the dignity that can accrue to those who oppose them.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
McKay's harsh yet hopeful second novel (after The Birth House) explores how women's lives were shaped by their socioeconomic status in the bleak tenements of 1870s lower Manhattan. Moth is 12 years old and living with her mother, a "slum-house mystic" who loots fire-gutted properties. Struggling to make ends meet, Moth's mother sells her daughter to Mrs. Wentworth as a maid, a situation in which Moth is regularly abused by her perverse guardian. Aided by a kind butler, Moth escapes to Miss Everett, who trains girls in social etiquette only to auction off their virginity. Miss Everett considers herself a cut above her competitors, as she does not sell her charges as "Virgin Cures," whose efficacy hinges on the superstition that a man can be healed of disease if he sleeps with a virgo intacta. Moth soon becomes friends with Dr. Sadie (based on the author's great-great grandmother), a female physician who entreats Moth to avoid life in a brothel, suggesting instead that she seek out adoption by a good family. Surrounded by women who fight to survive in vastly different ways, Moth must assess her desire to escape poverty in light of its daunting potential costs. Agent: Helen Heller. (June 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Moth is 12 years old when her mother, a fake fortune-teller living in squalor in 1870s New York, sells her into service. McKay (The Birth House) follows Moth from wretched childhood poverty to suffering the abuses of an unstable mistress and finally to the door of a high-end brothel specializing in virgins. After the life Moth has led, the warm bed and full belly of a prostitute is highly appealing. The brothel's female physician, Dr. Sadie, wants a better life for the young girl, but the debt to obtain Moth's freedom might be too high to pay. Verdict This novel starts out strong, but the pace slackens toward the middle as Moth's struggle to survive becomes a slightly duller "will she/won't she" waiting game. Still, Moth's voice is compelling, and the subject matter will fascinate readers. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction like Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White and Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha.-Therese Oneill, Monmouth, OR (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.