Excerpt from The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Virgin Cure

A Novel

by Ami McKay

The Virgin Cure
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2013, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Dawson Oakes

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

I'll welcome you home with open arms.
Your loving wife, Elizabeth

They stood in the courtyards behind the buildings, pushing stones over the ribs of their washboards and sighing over the men they'd lost. Elbow to elbow they put their wash on the lines that stretched like cat's cradles over that dark, narrow space.

Our back court was especially unlucky, having only three sides instead of four. The main attractions were one leaky pump and the row of five privies that sat across from it. The walls and roof of the outhouses leaned on each other like drunken whores, all tipsy, weeping and foul. Only one of the stall doors would stay shut, while the other four dangled half off their hinges. The landlord's man, Mr. Cowan, never bothered to fix them and he never bothered to take the trash away either, so all the things people didn't have a use for anymore got piled up in the court. Rotten scraps, crippled footstools, broken bits of china, a thin, mewling cat with her hungry litter of kittens.

The women gossiped and groused while waiting for their turn at the pump, hordes of flies and children crawling all around them. The smallest babes begged to get up to their mama's teats while the older children made a game picking through boards and bricks, building bridges and stepping-stones over the streams of refuse that cut through the dirt. They'd spend all day that way as their mothers clanged doors open and shut on that little prison.

Boys grew into guttersnipes, then pickpockets, then roughs. They roamed the streets living for rare, fist-sized chunks of coal from ash barrels or the sweet hiss of beans running from the burlap bags they wounded with their knives at Tompkins Market. They ran down ladies for handouts and swarmed gentlemen for watches and chains.

Kid Yaller, Pie-Eater, Bag o' Bones, Slobbery Tom, Four-Fingered Nick. Their names were made from bodyparts and scars, bragging rights and bad luck. Jack the Rake, Paper-Collar Jack, One-Lung Jack, Jack the Oyster, Crazy Jack. They cut their hair short and pinned the ragged ends of their sleeves to their shirts. They left nothing for the shopkeeper's angry hand to grab hold of, nothing even a nit would desire.

Girls sold matches and pins, then flowers and hot corn, and then themselves.

By nine, ten, eleven years old, you could feel it coming, the empty-bellied life of your mother - always having to decide what to give up next, which trinket to sell, which dreams to forget.

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.

There was a whole other city of us, on rooftops, beneath stair steps, behind hay bins, between crates of old shoes and apples. Rag pickers, hot-corn girls, thread pullers.

We got by, living on pennies from a lady's purse or nickels from men who paid us to let them look at our ankles or the backs of our necks for "just a little while longer." Some of us were orphans, most of us might as well have been. "Dirty rags," Mr. Alsop the fishmonger called us, as he stood there waiting with a long, thin stick, ready to crack our shins black. His stall was lined with barrels of salt herring - dried, chewy secrets with lonely little eyes.

In summer we slept sideways on fire escapes. In winter we fought rats and beggars for filthy stable corners.

We came from rear tenements and cellar floors, from poverty and pride. All sneak and steal, hush and flight, those of us who lived past thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old, those of us who managed to make any luck for our-selves at all - we became New York.

Excerpted from The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay. Copyright © 2012 by Ami McKay. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home: but unlike charity, it should end there.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.