Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Virgin Cure” as Want to Read:
The Virgin Cure
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Virgin Cure

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  14,522 ratings  ·  1,430 reviews
From the author of the number one Canadian bestseller The Birth House comes the story of a young girl abandoned to the streets of post-Civil War New York City.

"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart." So begins The Virgin Cure, a novel set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. A
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Knopf Canada
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Virgin Cure, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Joi Lin There were a few F bombs, but they were not used gratuitously. I felt like they were integral to the character and the scene, and no more than I could…moreThere were a few F bombs, but they were not used gratuitously. I felt like they were integral to the character and the scene, and no more than I could count on one hand, in total.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,522 ratings  ·  1,430 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Virgin Cure
Petra X is enjoying a road trip across the NE USA
Update I've had three trolls on this extremely inoffensive review. What is there about it that attracts these negative people to tell me how I should/should not write a review? I kittenised the last one. That usually pisses them off. This is a book I will not read. I have to tread on thin ice here since my last 'will not read' review was hidden (although probably not by the author's request. By someone who calls themselves A Hole, I was told). So thin ice ...more
Frances Greenslade
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Virgin Cure is packed with interesting bits of history, period advertisements, and lush descriptions of dresses from Harper's Bazaar. It's a bit like leafing through a wonderful old scrapbook. It also makes me want to go out and buy a corset and gloves. Okay, maybe not the corset. (The descriptions of it are frightening).

I'm not yet finished reading the novel, but the relationship between the female physician (based on McKay's own great grandmother) and the young girl, Moth, is compelling an
I was looking forward to reading this, the story sounded interesting, granted disturbing but also interesting. I like reading novels set in this time period, 1871. Most of what I read during this period takes place in England so I was looking forward to reading about the filth and slums of New York City.

Moth is twelve years old, abandoned by her father and sold into servitude by her mother, she becomes a maid to the disturbed and abusive Mrs. Wentworth. Moth quickly realizes she must find anothe
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very interesting, enjoyable and informative historical novel set in the mid-1800's detailing the plight of families struggling to survive the slum houses of lower Manhattan based on actual facts from research of author McKay's Great Great Grandmother's life as a doctor during the era.

Moth is a 12 year old girl abandoned by her father and sold by her gypsy fortune teller mother to serve as a ladies maid to the unbalanced and abusive Mrs. Wentworth. Moth eventually escapes the house and finds he
MaryannC. Book Freak
Where do I begin with this? Moth and her fortune-telling mother live in poverty among the mean streets of lower Manhattan. To buy food and sometimes liquor Moth's mother will sell just about anything of value she has to survive, including Moth. 12-year old Moth is brave and street smart, but naive when she is sold to a wealthy, but deranged woman. Believing that she will get to live in a grand house, she endures cruelty and torment from the lady of the house. Once she escapes she encounters Mae, ...more
What a unique book! A story based on a dark time in early American history. Young girls were sold/taken in and then their virginity was brokered by a "Madam" for a high fee. What happened to these girls next was anyone's guess. They turned into prostitutes selling themselves away piece by piece. In the later 1800s men carrying Syphilis, often thought that they could be cured by sleeping with an innocent virgin. Her innocent blood would "cure" him, hence the Virgin Cure.

Interesting subject matter
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'm back! Didja miss me?

I read, like, a ton of books since I last posted a review (breastfeeding, enough said), so I'm going to start to try to post reviews reverse chronologically. Here goes.

The Virgin Cure. Everyone's familiar with Chekhov's famous quote that a gun in Act 1 must be fired by the last act. Well, if you at all agree with this quote, then DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. At the beginning, I was interested, maybe even intrigued - I needed to know how all these mysterious loose end
Alison DeLory
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Like the large bar of dark chocolate I intended to mete out a piece at a time but instead polished off in two days, I planned to read Ami McKay's new book, The Virgin Cure, slowly. Despite my best efforts, I finished it within a week and am left awed and yet still hungry. I hope blogging and talking about it with fellow readers bring me the satiety I seek.

The Virgin Cure is the Dickensian-style story of Moth, a 12-year old girl living on Manhattan's rat-ridden Chrystie Street in 1874. To say Mot
Luanne Ollivier
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ami McKay's first novel The Birth House was a phenomenal success. I have no doubt that her newly released second novel - The Virgin Cure - will also be bestseller. And, it's one of my favourite reads for 2011.

I was hooked from the opening line..."I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."

And so begins the story of Moth, born into the slums of Manhattan in New York City. In 1871 Moth's mother sells her - to a wealthy wo
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Story Description:

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

So begins THE VIRGIN CURE, bestselling author Ami McKay’s much-anticipated new novel. Set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in 1871, where the author’s own great-great-grandmother once worked as a groundbreaking female physician, the novel is told in the voice of Moth, the daughter of a Gypsy fortune teller and a ne’er-do-well who abandons them both a smile
Nov 28, 2012 rated it liked it
This was a hard one for me to rate. I liked this book very much, but there were several things that kept me from loving it.

I really liked the character Moth. I loved her spunky ways and pragmatic outlook. There was just something about the way she was written that kept me from totally connecting with her. I liked her and cared about what happened to her, I just didn't feel her pain as my own. I liked her, but didn't love her.

I felt the same way about the female physician in the book. She did w
Joanna Liberty
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay is one of those standout novels that I will continue to think and ruminate about even after my reading and review have been completed. It's a story about the life of Moth, a girl who was abandoned by her parents in the slums of New York back in the 1870's. She is faced with some difficult choices after she manages to escape from the brutal woman to whom her mother sold her services - how can a girl survive by herself in the dangerous and dirty streets of the East Sid ...more
Lee-Ann Sleegers
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Yesterday morning I received a copy of The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay from a friend of mine. It was the book of the month for the Yummy Mummy Book Club and I was eager to start reading it so I could actively participate in the discussion. Anyhow in just over 24 hours I have complete book!

I generally enjoy historical fiction because I usually learn something I didn't know before or am able to relate to other books I've read and The Virgin Cure didn't fail me. From the very beginning of the novel Ms
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-bingo
Ami McKay can write. And she can research too. And for me, that's what raises this book to four-stars.

But the story is difficult. It's the peddling, marketing, assault, purchase and dehumanization of kids by pedophiles. There's no two ways about it, even if it was accepted in the times. The book, with great detail, describes the men's desire, and what they'll do and spend to get their hands (and more) on a young female virgin. The book describes the very act of stealing/buying/taking what they
Diane S ☔
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 In 1870 over thirty thousand children lived on the streets in New York, and at the age of twelve Moth, the main character becomes one such child, if only for a short time. Had no idea the numbers were so large and that what happened to these children so heartbreaking. This is the story of Moth and also of Dr. Sadie, who tries to help the indigent in whatever small ways she can. Enjoyed this book, and the newspaper articles and small asides were a big plus, helping the reader really enter int ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-long-ago
How could you not fall in love with a child of 12 with the name of Moth who begins her story with the words: ‘Mama sold me the summer I turned twelve’.
This is a poignant, touching story telling of the way things were for many people in New York in the late 1800’s.
It is historical fiction well researched to the point of giving the reader a true rendering of what life for a child such as Moth could very well have been, bringing to light some startling revelations about myths that were very popula
Megan Baxter
Feb 23, 2015 rated it liked it
New York in the 19th century, the slums, and prostitution. That is the milieu McKay is trying to invoke in this book, and, well, it's not bad. I was never eager to get back to reading this book, but I never minded picking it up, either. If it feels a bit superficial, it also is stronger when it comes to villains than McKay's earlier work.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the me
Carolyn Walsh
Nov 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This story takes place in 19th century New York. At the time there was the myth that having sex with a young virgin girl would cure a man of syphilis. A similar belief about the cure of AIDS also contributed to the spread of that disease in Africa.
The story revolves around a 12 year old girl named Moth. She is part Gypsy and lives in extreme poverty with her fortune telling mother. The filth and squalor of her surroundings is vividly described. Her mother sells the young girl to a wealthy woma
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Cheryl by: Sue from work
This was a quick enjoyable read, pure if predictable storytelling. I actually most enjoyed the edges and back of the story.
Some of the Goodreads reviews complained about the sidebar footnotes, but I really liked those, how they acknowledged the unusual, the unexplained and the ephemera of a time past that we don't understand and have little knowledge of. It was sort of like reading in a story in a museum, and these sidebars were the captions for the exhibits. The style of them, at the side of t
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really looked forward to reading this book because it seemed such an interesting subject. Somewhere along the way the story began to drag. Moth was a sweet girl who was born into poverty and sold by her gypsy fortunetelling mother to a sadistic woman. I enjoyed reading about the friends she made during this time but after that I had to force myself to keep reading. The story seemed to lack depth. The story did bring to light the sad state of poor girls and their future and the people who preye ...more
Alicia Penney harnum
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
It was a good story. I like stories based on history or facts. This book wasn't as good as McKay's first novel. There were parts of the story which left loose ends and she didn't fall through with. Towards the last quarter of the book, the protagonist (a 12 year old girl) takes on too much understanding of men. Realistically, I don't think a twelve year old would have the thoughts or inklings that McKay wrote for her, no matter what she had witnessed.
I found Sadie, Moth and Cadet to be under de
Paula Dembeck
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the second novel from the acclaimed Canadian writer of The Birth House.

Set in the tenements of New York City in the 1870s, it is the story of Moth, the daughter of a gypsy fortune teller and a runaway father, who at the age of twelve is sold by her mother to a rich society lady to be a ladies maid. Mrs Wentworth is the abusive, cruel society matron who Moth works for and from whom she finally escapes, running back to her maternal home. But her mother has disappeared and Moth is now home
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Twelve year old Moth was given her name by a pear tree and in 1871 is sold into service by her mother, a fortune teller in the slums of New York. Having grown up in abject poverty, Moth, while terrified, is also fascinated by having food, a bed, and a dress that isn’t rags. But the position, as a ladies maid to a sadistic wealthy woman, turns into a horror story that makes even life in poverty look good. Back on the street, now not having even a filthy room with her mother, things look very bad ...more
Joanne Guidoccio
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mixed feelings as we discussed The Virgin Cure at last night’s book club.

While no one really loved the book, many of us liked it enough to consider reading Ami McKay’s highly successful debut novel, The Birth House, and the third in the series, to be released at a later date.

The Virgin Cure was inspired by McKay’s great-great grandmother, Dr. Sadie Fonda Macintosh, who practiced street medicine in the slums. McKay had intended to write the book in her grandmother’s voice, but while writing, she
Debbie Mcnulty
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart.”

I loved this book! It starts in the slums of lower Manhattan in 1871. The author weaves for us an unusual tale about a young girl struggling to survive. Early in life Moth is abandoned by her father and in a way her mother too. Although physically present her mother is not emotionally present. Moth finds herself basically sold into the employ of a cruel woman. At the tender ag
May 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Historical fiction is really not my favorite genre but I thought I would give it a try in an effort to learn something while reading. And I did learn a few things about New York life in the 1870s. Mostly I found the culture hugely brutalistic and the gap between rich and poor so hugely vast. I'll admit the end of the book made me queasy hearing from a young girls perspective exactly what they were put through to get off of the street, and also the way society just overlooked violent rapes if the ...more
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow. It's infrequent that a book will capture my attention to the point where I am physically unable to put the book down. Right from page one I was captured. Yet again, Ami McKay wrote a book that brings forth the strength of women, and the ability to succeed the impossible. Written in a time period that I love - late 1800's, The Virgin Cure is a book of strength. The amount of research that Ms. McKay obviously did for this book is quite evident, and the end result of a book with such robustnes ...more
Nov 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
It's possible my expectations were too high from having read The Birth House but there's no other way to say it: I was sorely disappointed. I never developed any empathy for Moth or Dr Sadie and was frankly kerflummuxod by all the loose ends. Most confusing of all is how the 'virgin cure' issue itself floats around the central character but doesn't actually become part of her story, making it feel like some editor somewhere decided 'The Virgin Cure' would make a catchier title than 'Moth' or 'Th ...more
Anya Pavelle
Jun 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Virgin Cure is a very good book. The protagonist of this story is Moth, a young girl who ends up being sold to work for a wealthy woman. However, this situation is untenable, and Moth ends up in a house of ill repute to be "trained" for life as a courtesan. The women and girls in this house are in danger, though, because men with venereal diseases believe they will be cured by sleeping with a virgin. Of course, this is untrue. Thankfully, Moth makes a friend who aims to help her.

This book h
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that chews you up and spits you out then makes it all better again. Set in post Civil War New York, this book is about poverty and women and my gracious how far we have come in protecting our children. Reading books like this I often find myself hoping things weren't quite this bad, I have a sinking feeling they were actually worse. Great read! ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Up Ghost River: A Chief's Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History
  • Vinyl Cafe Unplugged (Vinyl Cafe, #3)
  • The Hatbox Letters
  • If I Knew Then: Finding Wisdom in Failure and Power in Aging
  • Five Little Indians
  • From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way
  • What They Wanted
  • No Relation
  • La bambinaia francese
  • The Midwife of Venice (Midwife #1)
  • Who Killed Tom Thomson?: The Truth about the Murder of One of the 20th Century's Most Famous Artists
  • A Secret History of Witches
  • Fall on Your Knees
  • A Town Called Solace
  • Traitors of the Tower
  • The Book of Negroes
  • Secret Daughter
  • Bone Black
See similar books…
See top shelves…
AMI McKAY is the author of three bestselling novels–The Birth House, The Virgin Cure, and The Witches of New York—as well as the novella, Half Spent Was the Night. Her memoir, Daughter of Family G was named a CBC Best Book of 2019. McKay is also a playwright, composer, and essayist. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now lives in Nova Scotia.

News & Interviews

The last five years of world history have been nothing if not...eventful. When living in interesting times, there's nothing better for...
74 likes · 12 comments
“Sometimes, for a moment, everything is just as you need it to be. The memories of such moments live in the heart, waiting for the time you need to think of them, if only to remind yourself that for a short while, everything had been fine, and might be so again.” 27 likes
“Mama stared at me not with sadness, but with pleading. She was thinner than I'd ever allowed myself to notice, looking more like a child than a woman. I wanted to believe she knew what was best for me. I wanted to believe she was like every other mother and that she loved me more than I loved her. I hoped, if I followed her wishes, I would finally make her happy.” 3 likes
More quotes…