The Impossible Girl, written by Lydia Kang, is set in 1850s New York, where medical science is advancing thanks to the study of cadavers. Unfortunately, these are hard to come by legitimately, and here we find Cora Lee and her band of resurrectionists – grave robbers by any other name.
Cora lives a double life out of necessity. Not only are cadavers useful for medical study, but an entirely second industry is interested in them, thanks in part to P. T. Barnum. Museums featuring anatomical anomalies are thriving and want the more uncommon bodies for themselves. Cora has lived her entire life knowing the dangers, being born with two hearts.
Since the story is of a girl with two hearts, she disguises herself regularly as Jacob, Cora’s twin brother, who lives a much rougher life. Cora finds the bodies, and Jacob works to get them out of the ground and sold on for cash. Of course, things start to go awry. More and more people with anomalies are dropping dead before their time, and Cora has a connection to them all.
Lydia Kang has written a fantastic medical mystery in this book. The characters are interesting and unique. Cora’s character is smart and resourceful without being overblown. She’s human and makes human mistakes along the way, so she’s not infallible. The thoughts and observations of the dead were a nice touch too, giving us a glimpse into their demise to help build the story.
Kang has undoubtedly leaned heavily on her profession (internal medicine physician) to weave a gripping tale involving early medical practices. “Write what you know” is an often told piece of advice you see given to writers, and it works well for Kang, as her experiences lend extra authenticity to the story… (just to clarify – the medical parts and not the grave robbing!).
Narration by Saskia Maarleveld was a treat. Easy to listen to, expressive, and a range of voices and accents to help keep all the characters distinct. Production was excellent, except for one brief moment I picked up on where I assume a re-take was spliced in, and it didn’t match up to the rest. Not enough to really worry about, though, as the rest of the book was richly toned and balanced.
So this was my first book by Lydia Kang, and I’ve already been perusing her other works to add to my wish list. Expect another review for one of Kang’s books in the future!