Every once in a while, I pick up a book with very little expectations and end up finding a hidden gem. Lydia Kang’s The Impossible Girl was one of them. I could not put this book down. I lost all track of time, and just kept turning the pages. And the morning after I finished it, this book was my first thought when I woke up. If that’s not a sign this is an incredible book, I don’t know what is.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.
Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.
Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.
Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.
I usually go into books with a fairly good idea of whether or not I’m going to like them. Sometimes I’m proven wrong, but generally I’m in the ballpark. With The Impossible Girl, I had no idea what to expect. I had not read anything by Lydia Kang, and I wasn’t quite sure if this book was adult or young adult or had supernatural elements or was just straight historical fiction. But I knew I needed to read a book about a half-Chinese female ressurrectionist. And I’m so glad I did!
I was blown away immediately. Lydia Kang’s writing style is my favorite kind: beautiful, but not at all distracting or pretentious. It fit well with the story, and was a pleasure to read. Just really good writing. I also loved that Kang is a doctor; her medical knowledge was evident, and I think it added a lot to the story. She also did a great job with the twists. I am pretty good at predicting twists, but I don’t think I saw any of these coming. There were a few I had a bad feeling about, but I didn’t quite know what was going to happen. That is a huge feat in my book, and it made me so happy.
The story itself was completely engrossing. I was invested very early on, and it just got better from there. I thought Cora’s story was really creative, but fairly realistic for the time period. It feels like something completely outrageous, but when you take a step back you see that it’s not. The mid-nineteenth century was a weird time, when P. T. Barnum was making mermaids out of monkeys and everyone was running over to California in search of gold. So it’s not completely unfathomable to have an underground society not only digging up bodies (a widespread common for decades – just ask Leonardo da Vinci), but actively searching for bodies of those with deformities to study or display.
As for the characters, I think it’s safe to say I loved them. I enjoyed the fact that the main character is half-Chinese, and there is a really great African-American character as well. Not an incredible amount of diversity, but I think it’s pretty good for a historical fiction novel. All of the characters have a lot of depth and each added to the mystery, which was so fun. I’m not going to spoil you and say who, but there were a few characters who started off good and turned out to be completely awful, and I did really like that sort of reverse character growth. It was so interesting and exciting. And (again, not saying who is involved) I loved the love story so much. It’s definitely not the main plot of this book, which is perfect, but it’s one of the things that stuck in my head the most. Overall, this was just a great book. Fun to read, impactful, and interesting.
★★★★★ – I was honestly surprised by how much I loved The Impossible Girl. I was a bit unsure at the beginning, but by the end, I was kind of obsessed. It is such a great book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This will be one I reread someday, and I don’t say that lightly.
The Impossible Girl will be available in bookstores September 18. You can preorder (or order) a copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Impossible Girl as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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