McKay has written another incredible, unique and riveting story, just as wonderful, maybe even more than, The Birth House.
The Virgin Cure portrays the plight of Moth, or really, many (and there were many, many) of the young girls living in the slums of 1871 Manhattan (blech, shudder) with such intensity it was so hard to put it down. I was riveted to the pages reading about Moth’s horrible suffering. “I am Moth, my father ran off when I was three years old, my mother sold me into service when I was twelve.”
The book made me think I was reading a stuffed and over-filled journal, with pages and clippings falling out, bits of history slipped in between the pages and little notations along the side written in pencil…There were so many times, and from the very beginning, I wanted to take a pencil or place a sticky note next to the phrases written, as they were so beautifully written. I know that sounds so cliche, but it’s so true. “But Mama knew as well as I did that a corset was the surest way to turn a girl into a woman before her time. It brings the body into a desirable shape, taking a girl’s breath away causing her to dream of whirling around a dance floor or riding a galloping horse – her only chances to fly.” (page 50)
“The most valuable thing a girl possessed was hidden between her legs, waiting to be sold to the highest bidder. It was never a question of yes or no. It was simply a matter of which man would have you first. ” (and really? the men were that digustingly disturbingly gross in 1870s!? Disturbing!) A sidenote: In 1871, under common law, the age of consent was ten years of age. (In Delaware it was seven.) The young girls of New York understood (for better or for worse) the value of declaring themselves to be of a palatable age to gentlemen. Twelve sounded for too young to the ears of any man with a conscience or heart. Sixteen, even when uttered by honest lips, inevitably brought the girl’s purity into question. Of the years left between, fifteen was declared to be the ideal number.
Overall, I really liked how it was written in what seemed to me to be like a journal format, with notations/letters from Sadie, the women and children’s doctor throughout. I will miss Sadie’s generosity and care of Moth, and I will be haunted by Moth. Definitely a 4.5 star read for me.
This book reminded me very much of Memoirs of a Geisha. A great deal actually. Therefore, you may also wish to read: