One of the books I took on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard last month was Kim van Alkemade‘s Orphan Number Eight–a book that, from the back blurb, I was pretty sure I was going to like. I ended up giving it four stars on Goodreads after not being able to put it down.
An historical novel about a Jewish nurse who plots revenge when one of her patients is the doctor who subjected her to damaging medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage decades before, the book has a risky structure for a debut novelist. Chapters that take place in the present are written in the first person, while chapters in the past are written in the third. This change in voice is startling at first. But van Alkemade is a talented writer who, through rich prose and detail, makes you forget anything but the story as she skillfully brings protagonist Rachel Rabinowitz’s pain, vulnerability, struggle and desire for justice to vivid life.
I’ll be featuring an interview with Kim van Alkemade about Orphan Number Eight on this coming Monday night’s Literary New England Radio Show. Naomi Jackson, author of the fantastic The Star Side of Bird Hill, and Laura Anderson, whose latest engrossing Tudor novel is The Virgin’s Daughter, will be my other guests.
The X-ray treatments Rachel undergoes as part of what her Jewish orphanage doctor believes will be groundbreaking medical research are part of what Kim and I will talk about on the show. Click here for a short teaser and, if you like what you hear, be sure to tune in at 8 p.m. Monday night! In addition to the author interviews, we’ll be giving away copies of each of these books.
But don’t wait to see whether you win a copy of Orphan Number Eight to add it to your to-read list. In it, you’ll travel with Rachel from the cramped tenement apartments of turn-of-the-century Manhattan, to orphanage cribs where children go weeks without ever being touched, to an off-the-map town in Colorado, to the impossibly soft sand and blue sky of Coney Island. It’s a terrific and affecting ride.
Attention Hollywood: Orphan Number Eight should be a movie!
– Cindy Wolfe Boynton