• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 4, 2015)
A stunning debut novel of historical fiction set in the forgotten world of New York City’s Jewish orphanages
In 1919, four-year-old Rachel Rabinowitz is placed in the Hebrew Infant Home where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research on the children. Dr. Solomon subjects Rachel to an experimental course of X-ray treatments that establish the doctor’s reputation while risking the little girl’s health. Now it’s 1954, and Rachel is a nurse in the hospice wing of the Old Hebrews Home when elderly Dr. Solomon becomes her patient. Realizing the power she holds over the helpless doctor, Rachel embarks on a dangerous experiment of her own design. Before the night shift ends, Rachel will be forced to choose between forgiveness and revenge.
Inspired by true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful novel about the human capacity to harm—and to love.
We are hopped between Rachel present and her painful past. A nurse in the 1950's, Rachel (who is just shy of 40) is forced to pretend to be a spinster. Her "roommate" and life partner has gone away on a trip, leaving her to face something that I think she needed to face alone -- her past. She comes face to face with the woman who'd experimented on her and relives a lot of painful memories, which I thought were fascinating.
Unlike the synopsis suggests, her confrontation with Dr. Solomon isn't as involved as I'd have liked. That being said, Rachel's growth as a person and as an independent woman was something I found wonderfully written. Rachel did feel to be a bit at arm's length for me as a reader, but I liked watching her go from one discovery to the next. I knew where she'd end up but I wanted to learn the story behind it as she's sometimes conflicting. One second she's a dutiful nurse dedicated to her role and then she's an internal mess who can't seem to function without intimacy. "Clingy thing," I think is what Dr. Solomon called her and it kind of echoed into her adult life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kim van Alkemade was born in New York. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in literary journals includingAlaska Quarterly Review, So to Speak, and CutBank. She teaches writing at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
Find out more about Kim at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.