Early in the twentieth century, Rachel and Sam Rabinowitz find themselves left in a Jewish orphanage after a tragedy left them without a mother, and abandoned by their father. Told they were the “lucky” ones, the siblings were separated right away, Rachel going to the Hebrew Infant Home in New York City and her brother going to an orphanage for older children. While at the Infant Home, Rachel and the other orphans become the test subjects for a series of medical experiments. Some of these experiments include being subjected to x-ray treatments that left the little girl permanently bald, and had repercussions into her adult life.
Orphan #8 is a harrowing story of a woman who, while seeking love and acceptance, learns the terrible truth about her past.
As a fan of historical fiction, there is nothing that makes me happier than to learn something new. The story of the medical experiments conducted on these poor children actually happened, and I am grateful to Ms. van Alkemade for shedding light on this dark piece of American history. In addition to this storyline, the author takes Rachel’s character and shows how she came to terms with her homosexuality, and the problems she faced in a society that demanded it be hidden. I’m not certain it fit well with this book. At times it seemed forced, and might better have been the main storyline for another novel.
Still, it was a powerful and moving story, and a fine first novel for Kim van Alkemade. Many thanks to Harper Collins for sending me an advance review copy of the book. Orphan #8 will be available for purchase on August 4, 2015.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2015