In today’s blog, I want to focus on another great Canadian author, Ami McKay. She has had two novels published so far: The Birth House and The Virgin Cure. A third book, The Witches of New York, is scheduled to be released in October of next year.
Brief Description of The Birth House:
“The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of Rares. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B.’s apprentice, and together they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. Filled with details as compelling as they are surprising, The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine” (http://www.amazon.ca/Birth-House-Ami-McKay/dp/0676977731/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1445520045&sr=8-3&keywords=ami+mckay).
The protagonist is 12-year-old Moth who lives in the tenement slums of Manhattan's Lower East Side in the early 1870s. Moth's mother, a gypsy fortune-teller, sells her as a servant to Mrs. Wentworth, a wealthy but abusive woman. Because of her mistreatment, Moth runs away and soon finds herself under the tutelage of Miss Everett, the owner of an upscale brothel specializing in prostitutes-in-training. Here Moth meets Dr. Sadie, an idealistic physician who tends to prostitutes and the poor and tries to entice Moth away from Miss Everett before her imminent, premature and possibly life-threatening deflowering.
This book includes vivid historical realism, especially in its depiction of misery and poverty. There are several examples of Dickensian cruelty. Sidebars (e.g. Dr. Sadie's notations, newspaper stories) are inserted throughout and they add to the historical authenticity of the novel.
The book is a powerful exploration of the issues facing women in that time period, including the lack of options for women, especially poor women. The power imbalance between the sexes is certainly emphasized. Unfortunately, the myth of the virgin cure for syphilis endures in some parts of Africa as the virgin cure for AIDS.
The one weakness is that Moth seems rather innocent at times. She is streetwise but given her hardscrabble existence, one would expect her to be more worldly. In her training to be a prostitute, she isn't given any instructions about sexual relations?
Readers who enjoyed McKay's first novel will undoubtedly enjoy this book.
Preview of The Witches of New York:
“To those who say the world holds no more magic, are you certain of this? For this night, within the candlelit walls of a room near Madison Square, three witches are alive and well - one born of cunning, one born of ghosts, one born of wishes yet to be fulfilled.
“Eleanor St. Clair, Adelaide Thom and Beatrice Dunn have gathered to prepare for an evening among Manhattan's elite. By divination, enchantment, spellcraft and seduction, they'll carry out their work in the drawing room of a grand mansion on Fifth Avenue. Without the aid of a medium's cabinet or false knocks on table or wall, they'll peer into the future and call upon the dead. They have no need for the trappings of Spiritualism. 'Ready or not, it's begun...'
“Compelling, enchanting and utterly unique, The Witches of New York invites you on a journey ranging from high society Manhattan to the hidden voices of the budding suffragette movement, and on to the web of secrets that connects them all” (http://www.amazon.ca/Witches-New-York-Ami-Mckay-ebook/dp/B00S3QAM06/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445520805&sr=1-1&keywords=the+witches+of+new+york).