2011 bestellers make McKay a household name

Ami McKay is certainly going to remember 2011. After all, it was the year this Nova Scotian author became a household name.

Ami McKay is certainly going to remember 2011. After all, it was the year this Nova Scotian author became a household name. In February, her first book, The Birth House, was featured on the immensely popular book contest, Canada Reads. McKay had already won some literary acclaim, but the contest meant nationwide exposure and renewed interest in her writing.

In November, when McKay’s name was still fresh in readers’ minds, she released her second novel, The Virgin Cure. McKay is currently on the Globe and Mail’s Canadian bestseller list alongside Michael Ondaatje and Esi Eduygan.

Bestseller lists and sales figures aren’t really needed to sense the buzz surrounding McKay. In the past two weeks alone, three readers of this column suggested I write about The Virgin Cure. While on holiday, I spotted copies of the book on several relatives’ night tables.

Like her first book, The Virgin Cure follows the life of a poor young woman who has a limited future. And as in The Birth House, her latest book is filled with fascinating medical trivia, outdated practices and cures.

The inspiration for The Virgin Cure was a painting hanging above the piano in McKay’s childhood home. The portrait featured her great-grandmother, a doctor, seated with a child. Always intrigued by the story behind the painting, McKay began researching the life of this New York doctor.

As she began to read about the city in 1870, she realized that she had a much larger story to tell. McKay discovered that at the time, more than 30,000 children lived on the streets of New York City. Many more lived in extreme poverty, their families near starving.

The Virgin Cure tells the story of a hardscrabble young girl named Moth. At age 12, Moth’s mother sells her to a cruel aristocrat. Moth makes her escape from the cruel Dickensian lady of the house, only to land in a brothel which specializes in selling virgins. At the time, many believed that having sex with a virgin was a cure for syphilis.

Obviously, it’s a desperate tale. But somehow McKay keeps the story compelling and sprinkled with hope — perhaps more than is warranted — that Moth will have a chance at a better life.

McKay has won many literary awards, but 2011 was the year a great many Canadians learned of her talent. Here’s hoping there are many more like her to be discovered in 2012.

Heather Allen is a writer and reader who lives in Penticton.

allenh@telus.net

 

Just Posted

Recovery centre operator said neighbours bought property ‘in haste’

Penticton addiction recovery centre plan halted by neighbours

Meningococcal disease outbreak declared in Okanagan

Five cases in last six months among 15-to-19 year-olds, including one in Coldstream

Crash blocks Channel Parkway

Northbound was completely blocked, while southbound traffic was reduced to single lane

Attempted carjacking at Penticton mall

A 24-year-old man is in custody, while a 37-year-old woman was uninjured by the incident

Fundraising effort for man assaulted at Penticton nightclub

A GoFundMe account was created to assist the Penticton man that was assaulted

Video: En’owkin project gets $20,000 boost

The En’owkin Centre on the Penticton Indian Reserve is working to restore culture and habitat

Debt-to-household-income ratio rises in third quarter

Total household credit market debt grew to $2.11 trillion in the third quarter

Charges in car wash shooting stalled

Court waits for police watchdog report on Salmon Arm incident.

Oz brings down the house

Laughter flies like house in a tornado at Cawston Players Wizard of Oz

B.C. Mountie told to resign after texting teenage sex assault victim

RCMP documents say Const. Brian Eden sent sexually inappropriate photos to 17-year-old girl

Family doctors should learn to treat addiction, not shun patients: scientist

B.C. Centre on Substance Use’s Dr. Evan Wood said efforts underway to change addiction medicine image

Four dog deaths investigated in Cranbrook

One vet suggests a parallel to these deaths and similar ones in 2016

Province rejects Ajax mine in Kamloops

KGHM Ajax had proposed a 1,700-hectare open-pit copper and gold mine, just southwest of Kamloops

Border officers rally at B.C.’s Peace Arch

CBSA employees tire of ‘lack of respect’

Most Read