The Virgin Cure

Publisher: Vintage Canada

The much-anticipated follow-up to The Birth House, The Virgin Cure secures Ami McKay's place as one of our most powerful storytellers.
"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."
The Virgin Cure begins in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. A series of betrayals lead Moth, at only twelve years old, to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, where eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as "The Infant School." Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are "willing and clean," and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth.
While Moth's housemates risk falling prey to the myth of the "virgin cure"--the belief that deflowering a girl can heal the incurable and tainted--her new friend Dr. Sadie warns Moth to question and observe the world around her so she won't share the same fate. Still, Moth dreams of answering to no one but herself. There's a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.


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.
My father ran off when I was three years old. He emptied the rent money out of the biscuit tin and took my mother’s only piece of silver—a tarnished sugar bowl she’d found...
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1. Miss Everett could be seen as doing work that “saves” girls, whether from poverty or from working the streets, and she is an established member of New York society. What do you think of this argument, considering the few options for young girls like Moth?

2. What makes Moth such a survivor? Is she...

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"Fans of McKay's bestselling novel The Birth House are going to love The Virgin Cure.... McKay's vivid prose can trigger in readers the taste of a hot bowl of oyster stew, the reek of Chrystie Street tenement houses and the sound of a taffeta skirt's hem brushing the floor of a concert saloon."

"Impossible to put down."
—Toronto Star

"Finely crafted and remarkably researched.... A unique achievement."
—The Walrus