Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kim van Alkemade's Orphan #8.

Rachel and her brother were orphaned in 1919 after their father accidentally killed their mother. Sam, at 6, was sent to the Orphaned Hebrews Home while Rachel, at only 4, was sent to the Hebrew Infant Home. Rachel has forgotten much of those early years, including the experiments she was subjected to at the hands of two doctors at the home. Until, that is, one of said doctors comes under her care decades later. 

The arrival of Dr. Mildred Solomon on floor five at the Old Hebrews Home, where Rachel is a nurse, is at first a pleasant surprise. Rachel's only real memories of Dr. Solomon are pleasant ones - she'd been kind and gentle to the young Rachel, one of the only ones to do so in fact. But when Rachel begins digging into her own past, she realizes that Dr. Solomon's experiments have had devastating effects. Now, with the tables turned, Rachel must decide what matters more: vengeance or forgiveness.

This was a tough read for a lot of reasons. First, I'm not completely unaware of the questionable ways medical advancements have come about through history. It's kind of one of those things you don't want to think too much about. It's true, too, that some of the most heinous ones that come to mind were at the hands of the Nazis. Orphan #8 reinforces the fact this was not solely the case as well as the fact that not all of these experiments were done with malice in mind. Rachel herself, while angry and afraid, is actually faced with the latter, which makes her own situation that much more difficult.

The circumstances of the book are awful. Rachel and her brother are separated and while their lives at the Orphaned Hebrews Home (where Rachel is finally sent when she's six) aren't terrible, Rachel's time at the Infant Home is very much so. But what makes it so much more difficult of a read is the fact that the author has based a lot of the story on her family's own history.

I don't mean to make the book sound like a big downer. In fact - and much to my surprise - it really wasn't. In starting it, especially on the heels of another somewhat heavy read, I thought I was going to find myself struggling to trudge through. That definitely wasn't the case; I read half of it in one sitting without even realizing it!

What did surprise me was the fact that this is Kim van Alkemade's debut novel. There are a lot of things going on in the book beyond even what I've mentioned above. In retrospect, and again after reading the author's note, I might have worried that she'd bitten off a bit more than she could chew just based on all of the varying influences she mentions but that definitely was not the case at all. All of the various details, the history, and the plot points are woven together quite harmoniously.

So yes, Orphan #8 is tough in terms of subject and I would warn anyone starting that is is not going to be a light read. But it is a very good read!

Orphan #8 is set to hit shelves August 4.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Kim Van Alkemade and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Kay said...

I've seen others mention this book and I had wondered about it. Nice to know that it was quite absorbing, although the practices depicted sound so awful. I'm putting it on my list for later this year perhaps.

Unknown said...

Loved your review! I also received this from TLC and can't wait to get started. :)
@dino0726 from 
FictionZeal - Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm glad to know that the book isn't a downer in spite of the heavy subject - it sounds like a book I just would NOT be able to put down until I find out how it all turns out!

Thanks for being a part of the tour!