It's always amazing to me what people believed about illness and the world of medicine before actual research was done to find cures. When I started reading this wonderful historical novel by Ami McKay, author of The Birth House, I really didn't expect it to involve a real, actual cure with a real, actual virgin. But I don't know why I let the basic depravity of man ever surprise me. The world in which some humans are worth far more than others still exists today and is brought to light in McKay's book.
This is the story of a young girl named Moth who lives in Lower Manhattan in 1871. Abandoned by her gypsy, alchoholic mother, she is forced to fend for herself. Just when all prospects of survival seem lost, she sees a beatifully dressed girl in the street who befriends her and takes her to a place she says will change Moth's life for the better. When Moth realizes it is an upscale brothel, catering to Manhattan's "finest" men in search of the elusive virgin mistress. She is warned of men who have a mysterious disease (syphilis)who might want her viginity to heal them, and yet she is undeterred. She knows this is her only hope for survival in a cruel world. In the brothel she has all the food and clothes she wants and needs as well as friends and bed to sleep in. What more should she want?
It is through the love and hope of the woman doctor who works for the brothel that Moth comes to see that there could be other alternatives for her. But can Moth feel as though she is worth this kindness from a stranger? Is she worth more than the price of her virginity? Could a woman in such a time and circumstance be happy and have a life of her very own? You'll have to read The Virgin Cure to find out.