Monday, January 4, 2016
⭐️⭐️⭐️ORPHAN NUMBER 8 By Kim van Alkemade
Release Date: August, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.
In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.
Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.
Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.
They were just orphans. Institutional children, disposable, and nothing more than a number on a graph. It was like a concentration camp, but the difference was the Infant Home took care of the children. They were fed and clothed, and of course, the orphanage was not a death camp, but they were subjected to experiments for science.
Rachel was one of the orphans who suffered from these experiments, and the # 8 was embroidered on her collar.
The book alternates between two time-frames, Rachel’s life as a child, and 1954 when she is an adult, working as a nurse. She encounters Dr. Solomon, a new patient, and soon recognizes her as the woman who administered the testing on her as a child. Rachel remembers her time at the orphanage when she was subjected to much radiation exposure, and now she is suffering from the side effects.
This was a very informative and heart-wrenching story that pulled me in from the beginning. I never knew about these very haunting experiments performed on orphan children, and all for research. A very disturbing topic!
My big disappointment with the book was the major lesbian theme running throughout the story-line. I feel it should have been a part of the book description to make it known to the readers. Unfortunately it was not. My rating is 3 stars.
About the Author: Kim van Alkemade was born in New York City and spent her childhood in suburban New Jersey. Her late father, an immigrant from the Netherlands, met her mother, a descendant of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, in the Empire State Building. She attended college in Wisconsin, earning a doctorate in English from UW-Milwaukee. She is a professor at Shippensburg University where she teaches writing, and lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Her creative nonfiction essays have been published in literary journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, So To Speak, and CutBank. Orphan # 8 is her first novel.