Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

Opening Paragraph:  From her bed of bundled newspapers under the kitchen table, Rachel Rabinowitz watched her mother's bare feet shuffle to the sink. She heard water filling the kettle, then saw her mother's heels lift as she stretched up to drop a nickel in the gas meter. There was the sizzle of a struck match, the hiss of the burner, the whoosh of catching flame. As her mother passed the table, Rachel reached out to catch the hem of her nighdress.

Synopsis:  In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.
In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.
Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.
Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.

Review by Mirella Patzer

Do you enjoy though-provoking books that have such heart-wrenching plots, such shocking storylines, that it moves you for many days to come? This gripping novel, based on actual, true events, provokes a plethora of deep thoughts and emotions. They are brought to the New York City Hebrew Orphans Home that existed in the early 1900’s. Rachel soon finds herself subjected to alarming medical experiments that leave Rachel scarred for life. The author does not shy away from describing the horrendously cruel experiments that included force feeding, physical restraints, and over exposure to radium through x-rays that left them bald. But Rachel survives and years later, she becomes a nurse. One of her patients, dying of terminal cancer, is the female doctor who subjected her to the medical trials. Now in a position of power over her previous tormenter, Rachel becomes obsessed with revenge.

The plot becomes rich with a bevy of emotion and thought-provoking twists regarding forgiveness, hate, love, trust, vengeance, and more. At the end of the book, the author has included photographs acquired in research. Tremendously stirring, this is one novel not to miss. So human, so real, so true!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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