Kim van Alkemade’s debut novel Orphan #8, based on true events, takes us back in time to the 1900’s. It is a powerful novel of the tragedies that can occur in life and the choices we later make in dealing with them and moving forward with our lives.
It’s 1919 and Rachel Rabinowitz is four years old and living with her parents and brother Sam in New York. Tragedy strikes the family and little Rachel’s life changes drastically. Having no other alternatives Rachel and her brother are separated and Rachel is put into a Jewish orphanage. There Rachel essentially becomes a medical experiment conducted by Dr. Mildred Solomon who does everything in the name of important medical research. Rachel ends up having x-ray after x-ray and these have terrible side effects on her body while the taunts from the other orphans leave scars on her image of herself that last her lifetime through.
Years later Rachel is working in a nursing home and one day comes face-to-face with none other than Dr. Solomon. All those memories she had tried so hard to bury hit her full force and she wants revenge on this woman who has done so much damage to her life and the thing is now the power all lies in Rachel’s hands. She wants the doctor to acknowledge what she did to her and pay for what she did so long ago. Yet as Rachel sits with the dying woman she is torn. Will taking her revenge on Dr. Solomon be the answer to healing her broken soul?
I really enjoyed this novel although I would have liked if the story had only focused on Rachel’s days in the orphanage and then later with Rachel and Dr. Solomon. At times when it slipped into the past the story lost focus for me. The most fascinating part of this novel for me was the historical aspect. Just the thought of the atrocities these poor orphans went through horrifies me. They justified these medical experiments on the orphans because they were feeding, clothing, and taking care of them instead of turning them out onto the streets. It breaks my heart to think of what their little bodies went through all for someone’s twisted idea of using these homeless children for medical research.
A powerful and emotional novel, Orphan #8 is sure to stay with a reader for a long while. Recommended for historical fiction readers!