Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Next Week: The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

Those who were enchanted by Ami McKay’s 2006 debut, The Birth House, have been anxiously awaiting her sophomore effort. It feels like it’s been a long time coming. And concerned as they are with women and medicine in a different era, The Virgin Cure (Knopf Canada) would seem to feature related themes, in many ways the two books couldn’t be more different, though McKay has opted for a similar storytelling technique. Both books bear elements of scrapbook, though The Virgin Cure less so than The Birth House. Newspaper clippings, sidebars, period ads, letters and other ephemera festoon the pages of The Virgin Cure, adding a feeling of period and reality to this well-conceived work of fiction.

“I am Moth,” the narrating character tells us as the book begins, “a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart.”

In case you are unclear about Moth’s place in life after the prologue, it’s brought home with the first line of Chapter One: “Mama sold me the summer I turned twelve.” In fact, McKay has a knack -- or perhaps a talent -- for starting chapters leaving you wanting more, rather than ending them that way. It’s an interesting approach. One that grows on you plunked, as we are, into new situations fueled by the stark images McKay paints.

Set in New York City in 1871, Moth runs wild in the Bowery, eventually meeting a woman called Miss Everett who runs The Infant School, where gentlemen will pay a great deal to be in the company of a virgin, some of them with the idea that sex with a virgin will heal whatever ails them.

Luckily, Moth befriends a “doctoress,” a character inspired by the author’s own ancestor. Dr. Sadie helps Moth to understand that the world the young girl has up to that point experienced might not be the only one out there for her.

This will be another big book for McKay. Topical themes twinned with the author’s distinct, almost painterly style, have produced another memorable fictional voyage. ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home