The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang

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So, thirteen-year old Cora had shivered and cried, wondering if her numbed left arm and leg would work again, or her garbled speech would right itself. And they did- only a few hours later. It never happened again, but the incident reminded Cora that her body held dark sway over her existence.

Cora, birthed three weeks too early in shame to Elizabeth, an unmarried socialite is born with an anomaly, two hearts. When her mother dies giving birth to her, a doctor discovers her extra heartbeat, assured having a chinese father follows all the other pecularities brought to the docks by those ‘foreigners’. Being of mixed blood certainly causes these oddities! Immediately the doctor is hungry to have her for dissection, when she dies of course, because he has no doubt her death will come soon. With the baby, this anatomic jewel,  she would be a great gift to medicine, something to dissect and study! He will pay them, it’s obvious they live in poverty and sorely need the funds.

Charlotte herself knows all too well what life is like as a family outcast, cut out of the family for her own ‘sins’. With her cousin Elizabeth passing and the threat of the doctor looming over their heads, she devises a plan to hide the child. One baby girl takes on two lives, as Jacob and Cora Lee, twins. So begins the adventures of Cora, Queen of Resurrectionists, employed by anatomists! Instead of gowns and all that glitters she chases down the dead from funerals to cemeteries to make a pretty penny. Even the poor that often “died in such dreadfully ordinary ways” can line her pockets, but competition can be fierce! It’s the unique bodies with oddities that are in high demand, people like Cora herself. She watches her marks, waiting until death takes them, keeping always to propriety as a lady should, even when dealing with the stink of death.

Before long, such people are dying unnatural causes, disappearing! Cora knows someone is hunting them and the killer may well be on her heels. Worse, she has met a mysterious medical student, Theodore Flint, poaching her business who knows all too well about Cora Lee’s fierce reputation. Disguised as Jacob, Cora and Flint come to an arrangement and everything gets muddled as her feelings for him become more than just business. Running from passion and love is nothing compared to the killer coming to collect a most sought after oddity for his collection, Cora herself.

Containing two hearts makes it that much more fitting that Cora has led a life as two people in order to survive but Flint could unravel the only protection she has, if he discovers her brother doesn’t even exist. The timeline beginning in 1850 with Cora’s birth, was ripe with body snatching for medical studies you can research this and find out the shocking reality. Too, this is a feminist story in the split necessary for Cora to take on the role of Jacob to navigate the rougher side of life. Cora is fiercely intelligent, full of medical knowledge and yet Jacob is the one the invite to the Grand Anatomical Museum is extended to by Theo Flint. In a world where women were less, Cora has risen to legendary status. Her own aunt and mother’s removal from the well to do family because of their pregnancies out-of-wedlock was the norm of such times and yet we see amazing strength and courage in Charlotte taking on the care of her niece. These were mean times if you didn’t have money, which is why as vile as body snatching is, it’s a sink or swim existance and people did what they needed to in order to survive! Bigotry against mixed- blood children, xenophobia, the poor versus the rich, sexism, it’s all here and it’s quite an adventure.

I was engaged to the very end and genuinely feel Cora makes for a fascinating young woman! This is one to add to your TBR pile, I was still guessing how it would all come together and the ending is just right.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Lake Union Publishing

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