Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Blog Tour: Orphan #8 by Kim Van Alkemade

Author: Kim Van Alkemade
Publisher: William Morrow
Date of publication: 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.

I'll start by saying that Orphan #8 is not a feel good story, so don't expect to get that.  For me, it's one of those books that I had a hard time trying to decide if I liked the book.  In a way, I had a hard time figuring out what the purpose of the book was supposed to be, especially because the end left me wanting more. At the heart, it is the story of Rachel's life as an orphan in 1920s New York.  She is separated from her brother, subjected to extensive X-Ray exposure in the name of research.  After the age of 6, she is sent to live and grow up in a Jewish orphanage.  The book waffles between flash backs about her childhood and the present as a 40something nurse working in a hospice wing of a hospital.

The early story of her life wasn't pretty.  For me, I found that part both fascinating and horrifying.  I could only hope that nothing like that truly happened, but I know the reality of it is very different.  It was not easy to read.  The rest of her life was interesting as she goes through life with alopecia and as she discovers her love for another woman.  I enjoyed that part of the book more.  What I had a hard time reconciling was the present Rachel and how coming face to face with the doctor who experimented on her changed her outlook. Throughout her life, I never felt like Rachel was a cruel person or let her anger get away from her; no matter what happened.  And in reality, despite what happened to her when she was younger, she was taken care of better than most orphans and her adult life was pretty good.  She had some decent breaks.  So, her anger and cruelty seemed out of character.  And in the end it changed nothing, really.  The ending for me was disappointing as I felt no closure and was left hanging.  

The notes at the end of the book made for an interesting read.  The reader is given a glimpse into what inspired Rachel's story.  They also made me want to research more about that part of American history. The book definitely draws you in, but in the end was just an OK read for me.

About Kim Van Alkemade

Kim van Alkemade was born in New York. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in literary journals including Alaska Quarterly ReviewSo 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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Kim’s Tour Stops
Thursday, July 9th: Raven Haired Girl
Tuesday, July 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, July 20th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, July 21st: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, July 22nd: Novel Escapes
Thursday, July 23rd: Kritters Ramblings
Friday, July 24th: As I turn the pages
Friday, July 24th: A Literary Vacation
Monday, July 27th: The Reader’s Hollow
Tuesday, July 28th: Mel’s Shelves
Wednesday, July 29th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, July 30th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, July 30th: Time 2 Read
Friday, July 31st: FictionZeal
Monday, August 3rd: Cold Read
Thursday, August 6th: Books on the Table


Anonymous said...

I appreciate when an author includes a notes that explains where the story came from.

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Marlene Detierro said...

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!

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