The Impossible Girlby Lydia Kang (Website, Facebook, Twitter)
Published by Lake Union Publishing on September 18, 2018
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon • Book Depository • Goodreads
I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
Historical fiction can be a bit hit or miss for me, and I was glad to see that The Impossible Girl hit all of the right notes in capturing the dark, gritty despair of Victorian mid-1800s New York City. In 1830, a wealthy young woman has been shunned by her family since she’s become pregnant out of wedlock–and by a Chinese sailor, no less. Not accepted by high society or her family any more, she flees the city to live a quiet life with her cousin Charlotte and her maid Leah, where they can raise the child in peace. But when her daughter is born, she dies shortly after childbirth, and it’s then that the doctor notices something abnormal about the girl–that she has two hearts beating inside of her tiny chest. While the drunk doctor is convinced that the girl will die and he wants to buy her body to study her, Charlotte and Leah know that they have to do anything to protect little Cora, so they move back to New York and raise Cora as a boy for the early years of her life–hiding her from her wealthy family and anyone who would want to study her.
Now grown in 1850, Cora lives a dual life running a resurrectionist business, procuring interesting bodies for the medical colleges and museums around town for top dollar. During the day she scouts funerals and doctors as Cora, but by night she heads up her team as her tough-as-nails brother Jacob, going where women aren’t allowed and doing things women would never dare do. This business keeps her and Leah fed and housed, and more importantly, it allows her to look out for any talk of a mixed-race girl with two hearts. But when the rumors start to fly and the people with interesting ailments that she’s been watching start dropping like flies from unnatural causes, there’s more danger lurking close to her than Cora’s ever known.
Lydia Kang did a great job of portraying the state of women’s rights in the 1850s. The things that women couldn’t do were thoroughly explored by Cora, but she was free to go and do as she pleased as Jacob. The only things that held her back when she was Jacob were based on class due to her lack of wealth. The class system and separation of citizens based on wealth in New York at the time was deftly explored, and it really added to the story.
Cora was very progressive protagonist for her time, and she would have made a great doctor if she’d been accepted by society as one. She’s smart, head strong, and resourceful, and her moral compass in regards to her work definitely changes throughout the book, which was refreshing. The side characters that she shared space with with unique and interesting, and boy did they give Cora one hell of a hard time for a good portion of the book.
I give The Impossible Girl a 4.5 out of 5. The twists in this book were pretty surprising, and I really enjoyed all of the medical mysteries and the smattering of technical speak. I heard the term dropsy so much that I had to Google it to see what it was! Lydia Kang writes such an engaging fictional tale of grave robbing for profit in the mid-1800s with a fascinating look at the dark and dirty New York of the time, with all of the varied people who inhabited the space. I really didn’t want this book to end, and with the way it ended, I could have used a little more to see it wrap up a bit more into the future.
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About Lydia Kang
Lydia Kang is a physician and the author of A Beautiful Poison. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine. She currently lives in the Midwest with her family, where she continues to practice internal medicine. Visit her at www.lydiakang.com.
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Lydia Kang’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for THE IMPOSSIBLE GIRL:
Monday, September 10th: @prose_and_palate
Monday, September 10th: @amberafterglowreads
Tuesday, September 11th: @jennblogsbooks
Wednesday, September 12th: @reverieandink
Wednesday, September 12th: @theshybooks
Thursday, September 13th: @everlasting.charm
Thursday, September 13th: @dropandgivemenerdy
Friday, September 14th: @worldswithinpages
Friday, September 14th: @katielmae
Saturday, September 15th: @chapter_break
Saturday, September 15th: @wherethereadergrows
Sunday, September 16th: @fictionalflowerday
Monday, September 17th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, September 18th: Write Read Life
Tuesday, September 18th: The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, September 19th: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, September 20th: Broken Teepee
Friday, September 21st: @spinatale
Monday, September 24th: @ladyofthelibrary
Monday, September 24th: A Dream Within a Dream
Tuesday, September 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, September 26th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, September 27th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Friday, September 28th: Let Them Read Books
Monday, October 1st: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, October 2nd: Midwest Ladies Who Lit
Wednesday, October 3rd: @basicbsguide
Thursday, October 4th: Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, October 8th: Musings from a Bookish Kitty
Thursday, October 11th: @kate.olson.reads
TBD: Spin a Tale