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The Impossible Girl

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Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

353 pages, Paperback

First published September 18, 2018

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About the author

Lydia Kang

19 books2,089 followers
I love salt more than chocolate. I'm somewhat small, yet deceptively strong. Sort of like an ant.

I'm a part time doc, full time family member, and if you offer me snacks, I'll be a friend for life.

My adult fiction centers around historical mysteries in New York City, with splashes of forensics, anatomy, apothecary medicine, and chemistry! A BEAUTIFUL POISON takes place in 1918 at the height of the influenza epidemic; THE IMPOSSIBLE GIRL centers around the illegal grave robbing world; and forthcoming in July 2020 is OPIUM AND ABSINTHE, with--you guessed it--opium and absinthe. And possibly vampires!

I have a nonfiction adult book written with Nate Pederson entitled QUACKERY: A Short History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, coming in 2017 (Workman).

My most recent YA novel is TOXIC, a space opera about a created, teen girl who's abandoned on a biological spaceship, and the mercenary boy doomed to die on it. I've also written THE NOVEMBER GIRL, set on a remote island on Lake Superior. A girl with violence running through her veins meets a boy running away from an abusive home life. Both from Entangled Teen/Macmillan.

I'm also part of the new anthology, COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES, with Soho Teen coming in 2019!

My YA sci-fi novel, CONTROL, debuted December 2013 (Dial/Penguin). The sequel, CATALYST, released March 2015 (Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin). I released a short story in the dark YA anthology, AMONG THE SHADOWS October 2015.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 804 reviews
Profile Image for Julie .
4,030 reviews58.9k followers
March 25, 2019
Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang is a 2018 Lake Union Publishing publication.

A dark, gritty, and ghoulish piece of highly suspenseful historical fiction!

Cora Cutter, born of mixed race, and out of wedlock, is raised by her aunt after her mother dies in childbirth. The doctor, who arrived too late to save her mother, examines Cora, and declares she has been born with two hearts. This anomaly would most assuredly place a price on her head and put an end to her life. As such, Cora is brought up as a boy to protect her real identity.

Now living in Manhattan, in 1850, Cora presents herself as twins. In her male disguise, she performs the physical labor of a Resurrectionist. When Cora ditches her male persona, she handles the business end of the operation. The clandestine operation of exhuming bodies, especially those who, like Cora, are unusual- a port wine stain birthmark, or a girl born with a tail, for example, brings top dollar when sold to museums of curiosities. Cora, herself, would make prime exhibit, which, of course, makes her a target, especially now, as a killer is out there hastening the deaths of those who have certain unique traits or characteristics.

Yet, Cora’s enterprise is threatened by some stiff competition and the rumors swirling about a girl with two hearts is threatening to cut into her profits and expose her closely guarded secret!

Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre right now. This book is a prime example of why I think this genre is so rich and fulfilling. This book knocked my socks off!!

There are so many layers to this tale, I’d love to write a long analysis, but will try to keep it my thoughts brief and an on point.

If you like strong female leads, you won’t find one better than Cora! She’s savvy, because she’s had no other choice but to find clever ways to remain incognito and earn a living. Despite her unseemly occupation, she is loyal to a fault, flawed and human, but also entirely believable. In fact, all the characters in this book are realistically portrayed. Human frailties abound, and the darkness at the center of humanity is absolutely spot on.

The premise is also based in fact, believe it or not, as grave robbing was indeed a lucrative business during this era. Hard to imagine, but morbidly fascinating at the same time. This is a terrific backdrop for this outstanding, atmospheric, and highly suspenseful mystery, which develops at a tantalizing pace.

The writing is superb, and the story flows beautifully. The dialogue, while less than authentic at times, is still crisp, witty, and sharp. This is an intelligent story, well- structured for optimum suspense, but, is also a story with a great big heart- pun intended.

The conclusion is absolutely riveting!! I was on the edge of my seat, on pins and needles! I was in total shock and completely bowled over when the twist of all diabolical twist hit me right between the eyes- and I never saw it coming!! Whew! Oh, yes- this is my kind of book!

This is a fantastic novel from start to finish! If you like dark, twisted mysteries, novels of suspense, or realistic historical fiction, this one should be in your wheelhouse.

5 stars

Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews510 followers
August 1, 2019
WOW! This book had me more hooked than any other I've read in a long while!

It is a brilliant, original novel that looks into grave robbing and body snatchers in the mid 1800s. It follows the story of Cora, the only female resurrectionist in New York, as she and her team dig up recently buried bodies and sell them to the highest bidder.

Cora has built a network of doctors who tell her of unusual cases among their patients, for Cora specialises in those that are afflicted with anatomical anomalies, and institutions will pay a higher price for those bodies. She has compiled a watch list of people that suffer from these afflictions and watches them from afar, waiting for them to pop off from their mortal coil, attending their funerals, and later that night returning to the gravesite to dig them up. However, people from her own watch list have started disappearing or dying of unnatural causes before their time.

Then one day Cora receives a wish list from one of the buyers, it's a list of desirable traits in a body, and the prices to be paid for them. Cora's isn't the only team to receive this list, and it includes, among other things, a girl with two hearts. There has been a bit of a legend around body snatchers that such a girl exists, but nobody knows for sure. Nobody except Cora, for Cora's closely guarded secret is that she is that girl, the girl with two hearts!

I found myself racing through this book, having to find out what happens to Cora, as those that mean her harm get closer to discovering her secret, and how she would thwart them. Lydia Kang has crafted an unputdownable novel, full of intrigue and suspense. It's well researched, I am now enlightened on many matters of grave robbing and human anatomy, and gives a good inkling of the lifestyle of our characters at the time the novel is set in. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of mystery, intrigue and suspense.

My thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
December 22, 2018

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Hello friends, I'd like to introduce you to the book that I've been secretly obsessing over these last couple days. It's adult historical fiction, which I know might seem off-putting to some who have neatly filed "historical fiction" under B for "Boring" in their mental file cabinets, but trust me when I say that this book is amazing and even though it's written for adults, there is tons of cross-over appeal for YA readers, especially YA readers of darker fiction cast in the molds of Rebecca Schaeffer's NOT EVEN BONES and Kerri Maniscalo's STALKING JACK THE RIPPER.

Our heroine, Cora Lee, was born in 19th century New York. By all accounts, this is a squalid, sordid time, but for Cora Lee, it's worse. Due to a genetic anomaly, she has two hearts. The doctor who delivers her into the world can't wait to acquire her tiny little corpse and puts in an offer then and there, but the family refuses. Frustrated, the doctor goes off and spews his drunken tale to all who will listen: stories of the half-Chinese girl with the two beating hearts who would make the perfect prize for a museum.

Fast forward two decades later, and the girl who the doctor said had no way of surviving is in good health, two hearts and all. Knowing that people will kill her for the marvel of her body, she has decided to work in the same shady career that would see her dead: she is a resurrectionist, a procurer of corpses for curiosity and scientific interest. A glorified grave-robber, basically. She does her work in drag, under the name Jacob Lee, and is considered the best in the business along with her crew.

One day she meets a man named Theodore Flint, who also seems to know a lot about the business, including the rumors floating around of a girl with two hearts. As the desire for freaks and geeks increases, some of those with curious medical afflictions begin to die under suspicious and morbid circumstances. And lest we, the readers, be too quick to pass over the dead, Kang writes of their deaths and last moments in the first person, to show their humanity in the way that their murderer(s) did not. As more and more people die, Cora Lee realizes that she's in grave danger, and that Theo, who she finds herself growing more attracted to by day, might pose the gravest threat of all.

So I loved this book. I posted about NOT EVEN MONSTERS recently, which is basically the fantasy equivalent of this book, and it has the same "hunter becomes the hunted" concept. I think both authors did a good job discussing that uncomfortable but still highly relevant question: what is the price of a life? NOT EVEN MONSTERS is gorier than this book but neither is a picnic, and THE IMPOSSIBLE GIRL had some very dark moments, including a twist that made me raise my eyebrows the way STALKING JACK THE RIPPER did (although it's nowhere near as ridiculous).

Twist aside, I thought this book was great. The research that went into it was obvious, and Cora is such a great heroine - I love it when heroines are strong and clever, but also allowed to be vulnerable and make mistakes. I even liked the romance, which I didn't expect to like at all. But then, doomed romance always has been my catnip. I'm honestly shocked that THE IMPOSSIBLE GIRL hasn't gotten more love. It was just shy of perfection and I can't wait to check out this author's other works.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,162 reviews1,519 followers
September 16, 2018
Looking for something a bit darker to read for the fall season? How about some grave robbing and human anomalies? The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang just might be that book you are searching for then. A historical fiction tale with a bit of mystery this one is certainly fitting for the time of year.

In 1830 Charlotte and her maid Leah were helping a young mother with the birth of her baby as the family wanted nothing to do with her or the out of wedlock child she carried. After the baby was born however the mother suffered some complications so a doctor was called but it was too late to save her. While there the doctor examined the baby and found she was born with two hearts and suggested she become a specimen for testing in which Charlotte of course was immediately offended.

By 1850 that baby had grown into a young woman named Cora who had come to know she had to remain hidden. Charlotte was now gone but she had done her best raising Cora by pretending until her teen years she had been a boy to hide from the rumors of the girl with two hearts. Now Cora has gone into the business of procuring corpses with anomalies to sell for medical studies to keep an inside eye on the business and whether or not anyone still believed the rumors of her own birth.

The Impossible Girl had a bit of everything wrapped into it really. You get transported back to the mid 1800’s during a time when the medical field was full on learning how to treat patients and a time of the side show spectacles. There’s danger and murders which brings in action to the story, a splash of romance and the touch of just plain creepiness thinking of trolling the graves. Wrap all of it together with one tough as nails main character making her way in a man’s world as she dodges threats from all angles and this one definitely would be one I’d recommend checking out.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Felicia.
254 reviews931 followers
September 16, 2018
"The girl with two hearts, too impossible to have truly been born."

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang is listed as Adult General Fiction/Women's Fiction which is why I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is a mystery book more than anything. And a stellar mystery book at that as I did not, not even once, consider the twist when the murderer is finally revealed

Set in the mid 1800's and written in third person, The Impossible Girl follows Cora, a resurrectionist, aka a grave robber, that procures bodies of people with medical anomalies and sells them to those that wish to study and/or profit from their demise. Cora herself being born with two hearts, is the most sought after anomaly of them all and thus her life is in danger from those wishing to profit from her death.

I enjoyed this book very much. It is a very fast read with a story unlike anything I have ever come across. There is a separate chapter from the viewpoint of each of the deceased that Cora resurrects, giving an insight into their life and their death, which I think was a clever idea by the author. This story offers a twist reveal that is delicious and blindsiding. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ from me.

I was provided an ARC of this book by Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,230 reviews1,279 followers
July 22, 2018
"A heart doesn't have to stop beating to be dead." (Unknown)

Lydia Kang invites us into a small, ramshackled house on Long Island. It's January of 1830 and the frigid winter winds almost forecast the future existence of the tiny child born this day. Her mother is of the high societal name of Cutter.....cast out by her own family in shame. Her father is unknown. But rumors avail themselves to perhaps an Asian man working on the docks. The time period's ill-fated child will present herself with dual cultures and something that will transcend all cultures......born with dual hearts.

September of 1850 finds this strange child grown into a young woman living in New York City. The unsuspecting brownstone in which she resides provides a refuge for Cora and her maid, Leah, who keeps a watchful eye on her. 1850 is a time of a wide-spreading cholera epidemic in the city in which anatomy professors and anatomical museums will pay a mighty price for specimens. Prevention of these diseases is at the core of dead body procurement. However, what brings in a higher bounty are those bodies that bear anatomical abnormalities. Those bodies usually are earmarked for the Grand Anatomical Museum and are in high demand.

Time, place, and circumstance present themselves ideally for a new line of work for Cora as a resurrectionist. Since it is highly unusual for a woman to be successful in that most dastardly of professions, Cora dresses in the costume of a male at night....her "twin brother" now known as Jacob. Once again, duality is front row and center in this novel. But Cora becomes suspicious when these newly procured bodies seem to have been victims of murder instead. Will the highly guarded secret of her unusual internal organs place her in dire straights as well?

Lydia Kang is known for her creative and high interest storylines. I would suggest that you check out Beautiful Poison by this author as well. Her Author's Notes at the end of the novel are filled with curious tidbits of actual historical situations dealing with resurrectionists of the time period. As always, Kang has done her homework and its apparent in the presentation of The Impossible Girl. She even includes Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman physician, in a particularly interesting thread. The Impossible Girl may just open the door on a future story involving the most unusual Cora Cutter. Hope you're hearing that loud and clear, Lydia Kang.

I received a copy of The Impossible Girl through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Lake Union Publishing and to the talented Lydia Kang for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Iryna *Book and Sword*.
438 reviews635 followers
June 19, 2018
4/5 stars

First of all - look at the cover! Look at it! It's so beautiful. Was the cover the reason this book caught my eye? Absolutely, I am a cover whore after all. And then I read the description and I was completely sold!

When I was reading this book a thought sprang to mind "this is what "Stalking Jack the Ripper" should have been". Minus Jack the Ripper of course . There are a lot of similarities between the books, but they are also very different from each other.
We have the strong feminist character, who is actually a strong feminist character - not just pretending to be one, the macabre world of the dead bodies and dissections, and a mystery.

The Impossible Girl was impossible to put down for the first 50 percent of the book. The plot was moving beautifully, the main heroine, Cora was a delight to read about and the topic was fascinating. I loved, loved Cora's secret identity! It was just such a cool perspective to read from.

The other 50 percent of the book dipped pretty low on the fascination scale - it was a bit too repetitive for my liking and few things happened that left a bad taste in my mouth. But it did pick up later on with a roller coaster speed and I was back engrossed into the world of living and the dead.

The plot twist, while I myself figured out early on (I just read A LOT of mysteries when I was a teenager so honestly not many things can surprise me) was still pleasant from the writing point of view. It was definitely done the correct way. And the madness that was uncovered with that twist? Disgusting, but oh so brilliant!

Things were pretty bad for a while for poor Cora, and when you think they couldn't have gotten worse, they of course did. I'd say that the last 20 percent of the book were pretty stressful to read through. Which is how it should be in a mystery book!

​I can tell that this book was brilliantly researched and I genuinely enjoyed all of the medical things portrayed in it - and I am the world's biggest hypochondriac! For the side characters I enjoyed Suzette a lot, which I didn't expect myself to do and I liked Dr. Blackwell, but I wish she got more page time to be honest - there was so much more potential to her.

​Some parts were laced with pretty great humor which made me laugh out loud. There was a part which made me feel very unconformable and I was flabbergasted at how Cora had no proper reaction to it whatsoever. If I saw what she saw I'd be scarred for life, but I guess she was a very tough girl after all.

This will be published in the late September - perfect in time for Halloween, when all of us crave macabre books! I definitely recommend!

Big thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a digital advanced copy for a review. All opinions are my own, honest and come from the heart.

Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,787 reviews1,628 followers
September 17, 2018
Wow! Finally, an original idea for a story that is executed perfectly. Lydia Kang is a helluva writer! Her prose is beautiful but it also flows well from page-to-page, making it an absolute pleasure to read. I would describe this as an historical medical mystery in terms of genre, it sort of defies categorisation, mainly because it is such a unique book. I thought the medical elements of the plot were authentic, detailed and realistic, and after discovering Kang is actually a doctor, I realised she has used her deep knowledge of the sciences to create an accurate and intriguing narrative.

There was plenty of action thoughout, and the twists in the tale were not predictable, even for a seasoned crime reader like myself. As soon as I opened the book to start reading I was completely riveted and found it impossible to put down. It didn't take long for me to be totally invested in the story and I was appreciating every single word. I read quite a lot from the historical fiction genre and strongly felt like this was a believable and realistic portrayal of what went on in the mid nineteenth century. It felt very much as though this was written by a nerd for other nerds to enjoy - this pleases me a lot being the geek that I am! Ultimately, the story is based around a secret underground society who dig up bodies but also actively search for people with deformities in order to either study them or put them on display to the public.

In relation to the characters, each was likeable, affable and completely believable. Cora is a strong female lead who was born with two hearts. This leaves her susceptible to the aforementioned society. Each character was developed well and I found myself feeling like i'd lost a friend when I reached the end of the novel - definitely a sign of a great story! I also appreciated that the characters were diverse with Cora being half-Chinese and there was a fabulous African-American character. This is a fascinating, impactful and thrilling read that is unmissable to those who love historical fiction and a wholly original premise.

Many thanks to Lake Union Publishing for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,804 reviews2,342 followers
March 17, 2022
Anatomy professors and anatomical museums were willing to pay for the extraordinary.

Cora, our heroine, makes a poor, yet adequate living as a resurrectionist. She digs up (with the help of her crew) the bodies of the recently deceased, and sells their corpses to the highest bidder. Cora specializes in bodies containing unusual medical "curiosities." She keeps a list of local citizens with atomically interesting anomalies, and makes sure she's the first to the gravesite when one of them dies. Lately though, quite a few of them seem to be dropping . . . many of them years before their expected demise. Cora has more than one reason to be concerned. You see, her own body contains a curiosity - an extra heart.

She is truly worth more dead than alive, and others are taking notice.

While this is definitely not classic literature, I found it fun and entertaining, and certainly worth a read if you're looking for something unusual.
Profile Image for Melike.
385 reviews
April 19, 2023
This book was insanely good and much better than I thought it was going to be. After I read more than half of it, I was glued to it and couldn't put it down. Great story and writing, the author really made that time period in NYC come alive.
Profile Image for Ante Vojnović.
201 reviews105 followers
September 30, 2018
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for my first ever ARC.

''Many things are possible. The human body's mysteries are finite but not yet solved.''

I can wait the day Goodreads will change it's rating system, because it's so hard to put a rating, especially when a book leaves you with your feelings split. This one is actually 3.5.

I always found 1800s an the first half of 1900s pretty interesting, because there is always something new to discover, something that was left out of history books. With this book in my hands I discovered some gross details about ressurectionists, or body snatchers. They were usually operating in small groups, digging out bodies of freshly buried people and selling them to medical schools for medical research or museums, all for a fair price. They also had a woman in the crew, and her role was to infiltrate the mourning family on funerals, during which they could confirm the exact burial site and make an assessment about potential risks.

Ressurectionism was Cora Lee's specialty. She was the ''weeping one'' on the funerals and the first to start digging under the night cover. But she was not doing this for the sake of money. This job was Cora's cover so she can sense the pulse of other body snatchers and the market requirements. Because her life depended on it. Because she was the girl with two hearts, the legend among resurrectionists.

I can hardly remember the last time a book left me with my feelings split. There are really so many things I liked in this book, but also a couple of things I didn't like.

The setting was really impressive. I haven't encountered New York in 1850's so many times. In The Impossible Girl you can almost feel the way life was flowing in the 19th century New York. Social picture and it's division, when it comes to question of female doctors, the manners, the life of the city. Everything was put masterfully.

Next to that we have a really mysterious environment, especially when the night falls and our body snatchers begin with their activities. And Cora Lee, who needs to be careful on every step she makes, because she can't never be sure enough someone hasn't connected her with the legend.

Also, medical precision. Lydia Kang is a physician herself, so it doesn't surprise me she did her research well when it comes to all the anomalies mentioned in the book, although I believe she did know a bunch of thing before.

The thing that bothered me the most is the romantic part. In my opinion, it watered down really interesting idea and the book that was promising to be a very good mystery. In those parts I could hardly recognize the main character, Cora. I know love can make people do some silly stuff, but this was beyond imaginable . Not only did it water the plot, it watered Cora. It's such a shame this romantic part took a large portion of the book, it really is. Don't get me wrong, although I'm not so much into romance novels, I like when romance entwines into something bigger. But romance in this book, to be honest, made some of the characters look like a silly teenagers in love.

I wouldn't like to end this review with negativism, so I must say, although some parts are slightly predictable, the final twist and the ending was really spectacular, the way a mystery should end.

After everything I've said, I think a decent rating for this book is 3,5 (just a small nudge to Goodreads to change their rating settings ;) )
August 25, 2018
The wealthy Cutter family of Manhattan will not stand for the shame and embarrassment of heirs born out of wedlock.  
When Elizabeth Cutter finds herself unmarried and pregnant, she's sent away to live with her cousin Charlotte who had also found herself in the same predicament but lost her baby during childbirth.

Elizabeth dies in childbirth but her daughter survives.  When a doctor arrives, he is astonished to find two heartbeats and tells Charlotte and her maid Leah that the girl will not live.

The baby girl named Cora not only survives but thrives under the care of Charlotte, her former partner Alexander, and Leah and becomes the only female resurrectionist in New York.  She scouts fresh burials by day as a lady and then returns at night disguised as a man named Jacob with a small crew of 3-4 men to dig up the body and deliver them to anatomists for payment.  
Cora's specialty is anomalies like vestigal tails or tumors that grow hair/teeth.  She keeps an eye out for patients with obscure or peculiar conditions because these will garner her the highest price if she can deliver them to the medical college for study.

Her job not only pays the bills but also allows her to listen for rumors about the girl born with two hearts that has become legendary in her profession.

When several people with physical anomalies die in a short time span, Cora suspects they're being murdered for profit.  The legend of the girl with two hearts has raised the stakes and now she cannot trust anyone, including her family (those who raised her and those who covered up her existence) or the man she's fallen in love with.

Cora must risk her own life to discover who is behind the murders and prevent them from finding out she is the ultimate prize, the girl with two hearts.

This was an exciting historical fiction novel centered around the true story of grave robbery as a profession.  Medical colleges did indeed secretly pay for bodies so that they could learn more about human anatomy/disease and help future patients.

Cora's story was fast paced and entertaining as everyone became potential suspects with a motive to want her dead.  There was scandal, mystery, suspense, and even a romance (which thankfully didn't overtake the story!)

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  The Impossible Girl is scheduled for release on September 18, 2018.

For more full reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for mo.
198 reviews91 followers
September 14, 2018
"I’m not ashamed of who I am, Leah. It’s everyone else that has trouble with it."

Review also on my blog.

The Impossible Girl takes an interesting, almost fantastical premise – does Cora Lee, the protagonist, really have two hearts? – and then firmly grounds it in rich historical detail. Especially vivid are the depictions of resurrectionists (people who obtained corpses to serve as public medical dissection cadavers or even as freakshow museum anomalies) and their work in mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan. It’s a novel that asks a lot of questions about medical research, respect for the dead, “race science,” past and present misogyny, and being biracial in an America that thinks of nonwhite people as inferior.

“Some good can come of an unwanted, bastard child. When the child dies, give the body to me, as it will be no use to you. It might fetch as high as fifty dollars.”

Cora is a resurrectionist. Possibly one of the best. Born with what feels and sounds like two hearts, Cora is raised in isolation and disguised as a boy (I’ll get into that in a bit) to protect her from anatomists, or doctors that would love to dissect her. She’s given an education throughout her childhood and harbors a deep-seated dream of becoming a doctor. Several things work against this dream – her gender, her race (her father is an unknown Chinese man), and her lack of money. Disguised as Jacob Lee, she works as the leader of a grave-robbing crew to earn much-needed cash.

It’s through Cora’s work that she meets Flint, who she views as potential competition. Their meeting, and the strange murders of people with medical anomalies like her own, set off a rivalry between them and a tense investigation into what’s going wrong among Manhattan’s resurrectionists. As Cora races against money problems, physical danger, and the inquiring attention of Flint, she must decide who she can trust and what path to take.


The 1850s Manhattan setting is meticulously realized. I could tell the author went to great lengths to research this book’s subject and location. (That said, I’ve never even been to New York City, let alone to Manhattan, and I’m not a time-traveler or historian.) The gritty alleys and gaudy parlors were vividly described but not overdone. Even though I had some issues with the novel (which I’ll get into a bit later), I applaud the author’s work on The Impossible Girl’s setting.


“Twenty cents only?” Cora wondered fleetingly, Would I be worth so much? But she forced the idea away. As usual, she blurred her thoughts over words like monstrosity and malformation, as if they had nothing to do with her.

Cora made for an engaging protagonist. Practical, a little proud, and endlessly inquisitive, she is diverted from her childhood interest in becoming a doctor by her protective guardians and the societal view that women were not fit to work in medicine. To readers who would rather their historical fiction protagonists never express viewpoints that would have been progressive in their time, I imagine she will seem like an anachronistic heroine. The novel counters that view a bit by including a fictional version of an actual female doctor who lived and worked at the time, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.

I’m not usually a fan of characters disguising themselves in the clothes of other genders in novels, at least when it’s done poorly. As a nonbinary person, I often wish that characters used the opportunity of attire to explore how they feel about their identity or gender. In this novel, it was…okay. Not bad. I kind of didn’t love how, when her “true” self is revealed to people who formerly only knew her as Jacob Lee, they just say that they knew based on her size and appearance. Still, it didn’t rankle me too much, and I suppose this story’s main focus was more on the mystery/whodunnit aspects rather than an introspective exploration of gender.

Flint (Theo)
Flint was an entertaining character, though I never got a strong feel for him. He felt almost like a rough sketch to me, rather than a fully-finished drawing. That might be due to the strength and presence of Cora’s character in comparison to his, however.

Other Characters
I gotta say, I was actually pretty surprised at one of the late-stage plot twists with a particular character. It was just how I like my twists: with enough hinting to get a strange feeling about things, but not enough hinting to equate to a neon sign over someone’s head shouting LOOK AT ME, I’M BAD NEWS. Then, there are several other twists I won’t name, but that were almost depressing to read. Just…wow. Cora faced a lot of shit in this novel.

One of my favorite relationships in this novel – and one that I liked far more than the romance – was Cora’s developing relationship with her cousin, Suzette. It was so sweet and good to see Cora develop a relationship with another woman, with them supporting each others’ aspirations and having each others’ backs, despite their very different backgrounds.

The plot
If you’re going to cry, go to church and pray for the living. The dead don’t need your tears.

As I mentioned in the section about characters, this novel’s plot was definitely twisty. (Admittedly, I don’t read a ton of novels in the mystery genre so your mileage may vary with my assessment.) It was definitely dark, though – dark in the sense that Cora really did face some terrible betrayals and intense feelings of emotional isolation. Near the end, there’s also some threats of mortal physical danger, but none of it reached a level I would describe as gratuitous or voyeuristic. I felt that Kang used dramatic tension and danger to good effect in this novel, even if some sections of the novel felt terribly grim to me.

Be warned, though: this novel does feature a great deal of death and corpses. Cora works as a resurrectionist, after all. If you don’t enjoy reading descriptions of dead bodies, murder, or general violence, you might want to steer clear of this.

Things I didn’t enjoy as much

I actually really liked this novel, despite what I see as its flaws, so this section is going to be fairly small.

➽➽ The latter half of the novel felt a bit disjointed, and certain sections of the plot did feel a slow-moving. It didn’t prevent me from reading it, but I did take longer to read this book than I usually would for one of its length.

➽➽ I didn’t love a certain element in the romance. Major spoiler:

➽➽ The ghost chapters. I think the novel would have been stronger without them, and I didn’t really like them.

And that’s it! Like I said, this novel ultimately won me over and made for a good mystery read on the whole.

Recommended or not?

Yeah, I rec it! I would say to take note of the fact that this is not a young adult novel, but it looks like it isn’t being mistakenly marketed as one. But ultimately: give this one a shot if you enjoy period mysteries, medical drama, spooky and moody settings, or a strong heroine. All of those elements plus more are present in this novel, and I think it will make a nice, atmospheric fall mystery for many readers.

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from an uncorrected proof and may be subject to change in the final published copy.
Profile Image for Arybo ✨.
1,326 reviews136 followers
September 18, 2018

“Anatomy is the equalizer, isn’t it? Shows we’re all just clay and water, in the end, no matter if you’re highborn or not.”

New York. About 1850. A peculiar girl. A peculiar work. A peculiar world.

As the darkness descended, Broadway became a bright, jeweled marvel, form the colored lanterns hanging on the edge of the carries, to the gaslights flickering to life.

Let's start with the setting.
I've never read a book set in New York in the 1800s. It was a breath of fresh air. No more Victorian England, but America and the city of New York in particular. Women with long dresses full of veils and fabrics, men in tailcoats and tall hat, ragged boys who work for little money. On one hand the high society that meets in the gardens and walks, without having to work hard. On the other, a submerged world of poor people who have to live the fight against hunger every day. On one side theater full of perfumes and flowers, on the other brothels and tavern fights.

In this society women of good family do not work, they are watched badly even if they want to teach. For a middle-class girl like Cora it is hard to find a way of sustenance, because she has been turned away from her family of origin because of her origins.

The nineteenth century world is full of contrasts. Cora herself lives at the limit of the two systems. Not being able to work as a woman, he disguises herself as a man to keep bringing money home. With the name of Cora it is usually associated that of Jacob. Jacob and Cora. Jacob. Cora. The same person. This method of survival allows her to carry on a very extravagant and macabre profession. The two "siblings" exhume the bodies of those who, in life, had a particular malformation or an anatomical rarity, like a tail or a great malformation on the face. Cora has entered this world knowing that, with a rare body, it is possible to make a lot of money. Another reason why she chose this work is her second heart. Exactly. Cora has two hearts, and to hide from those who seek her as a natural strangeness, she infiltrates this world, so that she always knows what happens.
Another peculiarity of Cora is that she is half Chinese. It would not be a problem in today's society, but in the nineteenth century people look bad at children with different ethnic parents. Even the particular beauty of Cora can not do anything against people's prejudices.

“Curiosity is not a moral failing.”

Cora is interested in the world of Medicine and anatomy. Not only because she must be careful, but also because her buyers are doctors or directors of museums of natural curiosities.

During one of the many funeral Cora attends to find a corpse to sell, she meets a man, Theodore Flint, who decides to enter the business of corpses because he is a doctor and because he is interested in human anatomy. During the same night Cora / Jacob finds the cadaver of a man, but the man has a green tongue.

After a few days, Cora discovers that the people she knew, who had physical particularities, are disappearing in strange situations. They should be healthy, but they die. Cora understands that there is something underneath. If she does not find out what's happening, she could soon become a victim.

The character of Cora is particular, not for her physical qualities, but for her strong soul above all. Cora is a girl fascinated by chemistry and biology, with an uncle working wax for the museum of anatomical oddities. The girl, although she does a rewarding job, can not leave it, because her livelihoods depend on it.
The more the story goes on, the more the girl realizes that her work is not positive. She thought of helping people to discover the human body, but maybe it's only about having the doctors entertained. The girl grows during the novel, she creates a better conscience.

“Your parentage has nothing to do with the fact that you are a superior creature to me in every way, Cora Lee.”

“It’s a shame your anatomic skills aren’t helping the living. “

Full of references to facts and historical informations, this book is a real dive into the American nineteenth century. It talks about morality, the condition of women, the work of doctors, anatomical discoveries and race problems. The author has done a great job in making atmospheres and situations. She certainly did a great job of historical research.

The story has taken me from the beginning. The protagonist is my favorite character figure, with a hidden side that nobody should know, with her brain in continuous work. A girl to cheer for.

The historical period fascinates me too much. I have never read about nineteenth-century America, with its museums of natural attractions and circuses, its gardens and its theaters, where you can breathe a different air from the European one.

Surely I'll read more from the author, because she did a magnificent job. This book kept me attached to the pages, reading it did not weigh at all, I loved everything I read. A bit mystery, a bit scientific, an excellent historical fiction. Highly recommended.

*I received a free digital copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review *
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,729 reviews465 followers
November 19, 2018
This review can also be found at Pure Textuality PR.

This was quite good. I became aware of this book from a few positive reviews and once I read the book’s summary, I knew that I would have to give it a try as well. This was one of those books that I liked more and more as I read. It really didn’t take too long before I reached a point where I didn’t want to put the book down. I really had a great time reading this book.

Imagine living each day with the knowledge that you are worth more as a corpse than you are alive. That is exactly the situation that Cora deals with every day. Cora was born with two hearts which makes her very valuable. A fact that she has worked extremely hard to hide. She leads a double life posing as her twin brother, Jacob, when fitting. Cora/Jacob helps support her family by acquiring bodies for research and dissection along with her team.

Individuals with unusual physical features start dying at an alarming rate and bodies are disappearing before Cora’s group gets the chance to try to get their hands on them. Something is obviously going on and I had a great time trying to figure it all out. Just when I thought that I knew how things might go, something would happen and I would realize that I was completely wrong. I loved that this book kept me guessing. There were several mysteries happening at the same time and I found them all equally interesting and quite complex.

I thought that the characters were very well done in this book. Cora was smart, tough and resourceful and I found her to be really easy to like. I liked the fact that she was able to really put on a different persona when she was acting as Jacob. Theodore Flint really shook things up a bit in this story and I loved what his character brought to the story. I was never quite sure who should be trusted or which characters would prove to have their own agenda.

This was my first experience listening to Saskia Maarleveld’s narration and I think she did a fabulous job with this story. She really brought the story to life and did a great job with all of the character voices. I think that she was able to express a lot of emotion into her reading which made it possible to really feel what the character is going through at the time. I found that she had a very pleasant reading voice that I found easy to listen to for hours at a time.

I would highly recommend this book to others. This book had a girl with two hearts, a double life, some grave robbing, a rather complex mystery, a fantastic 1850’s New York setting, and even just a bit of romance. I found this to be a highly enjoyable read and cannot wait to read more from this talented author.

Initial Thoughts
This was quite good. The more I listened the more I liked it. This book had a girl with two hearts, a double life, some grave robbing, a rather complex mystery, and even just a bit of romance. I liked that it was set in 1850's New York and I thought that the characters were very well done. It kept me guessing until the very end and I thought that the narrator did a fantastic job.

Book source: Kindle Unlimited
Profile Image for Ari.
782 reviews180 followers
January 6, 2021
This is one of those books that starts off a little slow, that slightly drags, but that wins you over in the end. Overall, I really liked Cora's character and I greatly enjoyed the joined banter of her other half. The author does a nice job of building the tension once the story reaches its midway point, and I was glad to be surprised by a few of the reveals that were shown off near the ending. An ending that was very much deserved and bittersweet to reach.
Profile Image for ☕️Kimberly  (Caffeinated Reviewer).
3,038 reviews647 followers
September 13, 2018
I absolutely loved Cora, who lives both as a young man named Jacob and as his sister Cora. She is a shrewd businesswoman with an extensive knowledge of medicine, anatomy and apporapthy. Kang gave us a delightful glimpse of New York, its immigrants, and the seedy side of medical advancements. 

The rich locked their loved one's caskets and set guards but doctors treating patients kept folks like Cora informed as they all padded their pockets. Cora herself watches locals with strange afflictions and waits their passing...but someone is killing off these people and their bodies are turning up at the university and museums.

Between the mystery of the killings and the rumours circulating about a girl with two-hearts the storyline was intense with dark and sometimes gritty turns. What made this a five cups of coffee for me were the characters from those on Cora's gravedigger team too a young medical student named Flinn. I adored Flinn as able to see the real Cora. 

This story had it all, twists, double twists, swoons and character growth.  All of which transported me as I dashed around the city with Cora.

As an added twist we are given the perspective of each of the victims around the time of their death. It was chilling and brilliant.

Saskia Maarleveld is a fantastic narrator, and in fact she is the reason I listened to The Impossible Girl. She did a splendid job capturing Cora, Jacob, the Uncle, and Finn. I loved that she gave unique voices to all the secondary characters capturing their mannerisms and accents. This review was originally posted at Caffeinated Reviewer
Profile Image for Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows).
1,553 reviews320 followers
September 15, 2018
I have always had a fascination with the macabre, the "freaks", the strange and different. Probably why Freak Show is still my favorite season of American Horror Story, partly why I loved The Greatest Showman and why I absolutely adore this book.

Cora is the girl with two hearts - having to grow up as a boy and then take on dual roles as herself and her twin brother, taking on a job as a resurrectionist so she could always be privy to any talk of anyone coming after her, to show her, or rather her two hearts, off to the world. In the time of Barnum and Bailey and the freak shows of the world, grave robbing as a norm and where the thought of a woman doctor was still astonishing and unheard of - Kang takes us into this world with flourish and entertainment.

While I did enjoy the story thoroughly, I especially loved reading the Author's Note at the end where it's explained what was taken from actual truth from those days, including the amazing language that the resurrectionists used - how fun is that?! And the explanations of the various things that happened throughout the book made it even more interesting for me.

This is the perfect kind of historical fiction that I enjoy. Cora is a character I thoroughly enjoyed. I also loved the uniqueness in the interspersed chapters of the last minutes of the characters who died from their point of view.

If you like the world of grave robbing with a strong female protagonist who fights for her life on the daily, this is a great read for you. While historical fiction isn't typically my cup of tea, this one became my shot of whiskey.

Thanks to Lake Union Authors, Amazon Publishing and TLC Book Tours for this copy.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,201 reviews724 followers
October 11, 2018
(free review copy) HOLY MOTHER OF MACABRE. You guys know I’m obsessed with medical history AND that I love New York City history, so this book was on my TBR when I first heard about it. @tlcbooktours was gracious enough to send me a free review copy, and oh my goodness am I glad they did. Or maybe I’m not, given how absolutely delightfully disgusting this book was - HA!
Kang holds absolutely nothing back in her descriptions of medical deformities and atrocities and of the corpses……so, so, so, so many corpses. The Impossible Girl is one of those ones best not read over a meal…..or before bed if you are at all the nightmare type. AND, this story takes some dark, dark turns that I had absolutely no idea were coming. I’m actually still a little upset about some of them and want to scream, “WHY??? Why did you make THAT happen?”. Whew, the sign of a gripping book I guess - one that makes me sort of want to puke AND want to scream. I adore that Kang is a physician, because it brings so much authenticity to the story.
If you’re looking for a fantastically gross book with excellent historical detail, definitely add this one to your list!
Profile Image for Nadia.
Author 12 books3,246 followers
May 28, 2019
This is historical fiction story like no other, masterfully told. Cora is a resurrectionist with a curious double life, delivering freshly interred corpses to institutions of medical learning while wondering if she might face the same fate of those she unburies.

Loved the details of historic New York, the beginnings of pharmacology, and the cast of colorful characters.
Profile Image for Hristina.
515 reviews77 followers
August 9, 2018
I was surprised by this book. I tend to stay away from historical fiction as it's not my cup of tea, but this book has a premise that after reading the synopsis I couldn't resist.
It's very easy to read and it offers a captivating story. I enjoyed how well the characters were written, and I especially enjoyed the story. The book gave me the impression that it was well-researched and planned to the smallest of details, as everything was coming together plot-wise. I do have a bit of an issue with the writing: the pacing made a huge turn mid book, and I feel like there were some paragraphs that weren't crucial to the story, and they took away from my overall impression of it. But I do believe that fans of historical fiction will enjoy this book.

*Rating: 4/5 stars
*Copy received through NetGalley
Profile Image for ABCme.
319 reviews28 followers
June 30, 2018
Thank you Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the ARC.

I'm always on the lookout for some macabre historical fiction and when offered the chance to review this book, my expectations reached the gothic spires.
I wasn't disappointed.

Come, let's enter the morbid world of graverobbers.

It's 1850 and the New York resurrectionists are digging up freshly buried bodies to sell to the medical schools. The ones with the most fascinating anomalies fetch the best price, so there's quite an industry in following the sick and departed. Doctors are lending a helping hand. There is also a list with parts most wanted by the anatomical museum.
The robbers have their work cut out for them.

Our main character, Cora, carries a secret that might destroy her. In order to survive she leads a double life as Jacob, resurrectionist. She's a fierce lady by day and a tough guy on the nightly digs.
That is, until rumors start spreading about a girl with two hearts, with a bounty of $500 quickly becoming the most sought after person in town.
Cora has to get hold of her childhood doctor's diaries, to stop the rumors and prevent her life from being ripped apart. The race is on.
The story continues at great pace with quite a few surprises keeping the excitement going. Eventually there's a well crafted twist leading up to a wonderful finale.

The book is filled with indepth characters, the good, the bad and the ugly. Vivid writing of lush mansions, dirty alleyways and earthy graveyards throughout.
I thorougly enjoyed the chapters where the dead have their say. The anomalies are just too delicious and, despite their sad tidings, had me laugh out loud.

The Impossible Girl is an amazing read, fast paced and entertaining from the start. Highly recommended.
723 reviews306 followers
September 25, 2018
If you don't try to analyze or make sense of some of the characters' actions, this makes for an entertaining historical mystery-thriller. It takes place in 1850s NYC, during an interesting period in history, when medical schools needed cadavers for their anatomy classes and research, with demand high and voluntary supply (by family members, etc.) almost nonexistent. What to do but steal freshly-dead bodies from graves to sell. Those involved in this grave robbing were known as resurrectionists and there were even a few extremely unscrupulous ones who stooped to murder to get a good enough supply of bodies.

With an oversupply of bodies of the poor, who died mainly of mundane, ordinary causes such as malnutrition or common diseases, the more exotic and anomalous maladies and deformations were in high demand: people with tumors, for example, or vestigial tails, three breasts, six toes, or, let's say, two hearts even. These more exotic corpses were in demand both for scientific research and for prurient interest in museums or public exhibitions.

But two hearts? That's impossible, isn't it? Except for the case of our heroine, Cora Lee, illegitimate daughter of a disgraced socialite and a Chinese sailor. Cora never knew her parents and was raised by her Aunt Charlotte, who is recently deceased as this book begins. The doctor who attended Cora's birth was indiscreet about baby Cora's abnormality, so the medical and scientific world has been aware that a half Chinese girl (identity unknown) with two hearts was born in NYC.

To keep Cora safe, Aunt Charlotte had raised her as a boy, Jacob, hoping the rumors about the "Impossible Girl" would die out and that no suspicion would fall on "boy" Jacob. After puberty, both Cora/Jacob co-exist, as Cora during the day and Jacob at night, working as resurrectionists supplying cadavers for scientific research. Cora has chosen this profession in the hopes that she can always keep abreast of any rumors about her or requests to find that two-hearted girl.

And so it goes. Cora finds competition in this grave robbing business heating up. One competitor is medical student Theo, in need of funds. They feel an attraction to each other but mutual trust is quite another thing. And there are other competitors, many quite unsavory. In addition, we have unscrupulous businessmen looking for "freaks of nature" to make money from by charging admission to their museums or exhibitions.

When a list of body requests comes out with the most expensive item being a half Chinese girl with two hearts, things really start to heat up for Cora. It's hard for her to know who to trust, to know who is aware that she is the girl with two hearts. How will she keep herself safe if it becomes known that she is the one everyone is looking for?

Well, just stay tuned. There are lots of bad and seemingly bad guys here, lots of good and seemingly good guys, and an unexpected really bad guy. There are a good amount of twists in here and I had not twigged on to who was the most evil of the evils until the reveal at the end.

The story and plot are good enough to hold one's interest, the author is a medical doctor and knows her medical information, but the writing style is basic and uninspired. In other words, literature this ain't. And Cora's final solution to her problem, the way she thinks she can save herself, seemed to me to be very ill thought out and impractical, even if interesting from a medical point of view.

There's a lot that's improbable and impractical here but I kept on reading it all anyway. Just had to find out how it all was going to end.
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews181 followers
September 28, 2020
The Impossible Girl is eerily similar to a YA novel called Stalking Jack the Ripper. Both feature a modern girl in Victorian times, whose profession involves dead bodies, attempting to solve a murder, only to be betrayed pretty horribly. I liked this book marginally better than that one, but I mostly had the same reading experience, which is that I was bored and uninterested, completely unattached to any of the characters. I strongly considered DNFing this, but reviews spoke of two major twists that I was curious enough about, so I kept going.

I will say, this is a spectacularly researched book; 19th-century New York City comes alive in a stunning way. The setting and atmosphere were probably the best parts of the story; I felt like I was transported to another time.

Otherwise, I didn't much like this, and I'm having trouble putting my finger on why, precisely, as there's nothing especially wrong with this book, but it just didn't sit right with me. I wasn't a fan of the writing style, or the characters, or the plot, or the way the plot resolved. This is a surprisingly dark book, which I don't think the marketing or the writing makes clear, and it leads to a weirdly jarring reading experience. That is, this reads more like women's fiction set in a historic setting than it does historical fiction, and so the inclusion of so many dark and traumatic events felt totally out of place.

I have to talk about the two twists that kept me reading, because I hated both of them, or rather I hated how they were handled. Both twists just felt so...sordid, a way to pile on the misery. And there was so little time for Cora to actually take in what happened; I mean, these are significantly traumatic events! And yet they were just kind of...glossed over?

I also felt absolutely nothing for the romance, which happened way too fast for my liking.

So, overall, I was bored and disinterested, hated the twist, and was generally very disappointed by a book I'd had some pretty high expectations for.
Profile Image for Kit.
715 reviews59 followers
October 8, 2021
I love Lydia Kang's historical (and occasionally medical) mysteries.
Profile Image for Lolly K Dandeneau.
1,846 reviews232 followers
August 29, 2018
via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com
'So, thirteen-year old Cora had shivered and cried, wondering if her numbed left arm and leg would work again, or her garbled speech would right itself. And they did- only a few hours later. It never happened again, but the incident reminded Cora that her body held dark sway over her existence.'

Cora, birthed three weeks too early in shame to Elizabeth, an unmarried socialite is born with an anomaly, two hearts. When her mother dies giving birth to her, a doctor discovers her extra heartbeat, assured having a chinese father follows all the other pecularities brought to the docks by those ‘foreigners’. Being of mixed blood certainly causes these oddities! Immediately the doctor is hungry to have her for dissection, when she dies of course, because he has no doubt her death will come soon. With the baby, this anatomic jewel, she would be a great gift to medicine, something to dissect and study! He will pay them, it’s obvious they live in poverty and sorely need the funds.

Charlotte herself knows all too well what life is like as a family outcast, cut out of the family for her own ‘sins’. With her cousin Elizabeth passing and the threat of the doctor looming over their heads, she devises a plan to hide the child. One baby girl takes on two lives, as Jacob and Cora Lee, twins. So begins the adventures of Cora, Queen of Resurrectionists, employed by anatomists! Instead of gowns and all that glitters she chases down the dead from funerals to cemeteries to make a pretty penny. Even the poor that often “died in such dreadfully ordinary ways” can line her pockets, but competition can be fierce! It’s the unique bodies with oddities that are in high demand, people like Cora herself. She watches her marks, waiting until death takes them, keeping always to propriety as a lady should, even when dealing with the stink of death.

Before long, such people are dying unnatural causes, disappearing! Cora knows someone is hunting them and the killer may well be on her heels. Worse, she has met a mysterious medical student, Theodore Flint, poaching her business who knows all too well about Cora Lee’s fierce reputation. Disguised as Jacob, Cora and Flint come to an arrangement and everything gets muddled as her feelings for him become more than just business. Running from passion and love is nothing compared to the killer coming to collect a most sought after oddity for his collection, Cora herself.

Containing two hearts makes it that much more fitting that Cora has led a life as two people in order to survive but Flint could unravel the only protection she has, if he discovers her brother doesn’t even exist. The timeline beginning in 1850 with Cora’s birth, was ripe with body snatching for medical studies you can research this and find out the shocking reality. Too, this is a feminist story in the split necessary for Cora to take on the role of Jacob to navigate the rougher side of life. Cora is fiercely intelligent, full of medical knowledge and yet Jacob is the one the invite to the Grand Anatomical Museum is extended to by Theo Flint. In a world where women were less, Cora has risen to legendary status. Her own aunt and mother’s removal from the well to do family because of their pregnancies out-of-wedlock was the norm of such times and yet we see amazing strength and courage in Charlotte taking on the care of her niece. These were mean times if you didn’t have money, which is why as vile as body snatching is, it’s a sink or swim existance and people did what they needed to in order to survive! Bigotry against mixed- blood children, xenophobia, the poor versus the rich, sexism, it’s all here and it’s quite an adventure.

I was engaged to the very end and genuinely feel Cora makes for a fascinating young woman! This is one to add to your TBR pile, I was still guessing how it would all come together and the ending is just right.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Lake Union Publishing
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,324 reviews155 followers
March 17, 2020
Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

2.5 stars

This sounded very interesting to me, and it was for a while. I found the parts about the resurrectionists the most interesting, and I think the author nailed the feel of New York City in the time period this book is set in. I also am always impressed with the medical aspects of Kang's books. The author being a physician, I'm sure helps, when it comes to including these details in her books. But I didn't care for the way some of the characters felt too modern for the time period.

The weakest part of the book, though, was the mystery itself. I enjoyed it for a good while, but there was a point were it took an unbelievable turn. It didn't feel believable to me that this person was behind things, or the reason for it. It was all just a bit wacky, if you ask me.

I wanted to like Cora as the main character, but I struggled with her. She was pretty sharp when it came to the resurrectionist trade, but when it came to a few of the people in her life, she was blind as a bat. I also think she took some stupid risks, especially when it came to her sexual activities, and was lucky that things ended up so well for her in the end, because for most women in her situation back then, it would not have worked out so nicely. She only had to look as far as her own mother and 'aunt' to see that.

Overall I struggled with my rating for this book, but finally decided on 2.5 stars because the parts I liked just didn't make up enough for the parts I didn't like. I was disappointed that this wasn't on par with A beautiful poison, which I liked a lot more. That being said, I'm not giving up on this author yet. I'm still planning to read her next mystery when it's available.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,248 reviews390 followers
September 21, 2018
This was a book that I was excited about when I got the pitch and then I kind of forgot about it until closer to the review date. I wasn’t entirely excited to read it when the time came to start it, but that slight was rectified almost immediately when I started this one.

This book had a little bit of everything, romance, mystery, fantasy, and history. I loved this one almost from the first word! It made an excellent early fall/Halloween read.

This book touched on some of the most interesting aspects of Victorian society. While this book is set in Manhattan, the English influence can still be seen in this book. The controversial busy and selling of dead bodies to science and medical students as well as grave robbing is predominantly featured in this book and I absolutely loved it! So I have a macabre curiosity? Yes, absolutely. But as a social historian I also love how resourceful people and students were. The whole body snatching industry was quite the operation and took quite a bit of ingenuity if you ask me. Not to mention this book explores quite a bit about the medical profession during that time and I absolutely loved that….beyond words!

While I found many of the medical anomalies captivating as well as some of the moral ambiguity discussions, I was quickly diverted by all the interesting characters. I loved that there were feminist characters like Dr Blackwell, though I would have liked to have seen a little more of her. I easily loved Cora, as the protagonist she was perfect and interesting. As a resurrectionist, that should make her stand out, but for me it was her ethnicity that stood out. To me being a resurrectionist was just part of her job rather than who she was. I loved that she was a minority in a time when minorities weren’t widely trusted or accepted and that she wanted to be a doctor. She was memorable and I loved her.

There are some paranormal elements to the story, but to me it wasn’t the focus. At the heart of this book, it’s a mystery. The mystery outshines the paranormal. It also features a good deal of forensics and I found that it captured my imagination and intrigue.

This book took me by surprise and I was hooked from the first chapter. I loved it and read it in one weekend. I would highly recommend this book, especially in time for Halloween! And can I just say how in love with the cover I am? If that doesn’t say Victorian then I don’t know what does. That cover is perfect for this book and made me want to read it not to mention buy a hard copy for my bookshelf to display!

See my full review here
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
1,006 reviews782 followers
October 2, 2018
Well, that was interesting...

Truly an interesting and rather unexpected read. A tale of a young woman determined to make a life for herself during a time where women are regarded as the inferior gender by society - filled with murder, mystery and twisted family hierocracy. In some ways, it quite reminds me of These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly which I really enjoyed as well.

And honestly, I did not guess the killer right at all. Which is pretty rare, so kudos to the author for throwing me for a loop.

* Detailed review to come?*
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