Orphan #8 a novel

by Kim van Alkemade

Book, 2015

Barcode

123462018

Call number

FIC VAN

Collection

Publication

New York : William Morrow, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015

Description

New York Times and USA Today Bestseller In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before. In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City's Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had. Though Rachel believes she's shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan's Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person's fate--to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals--is not always set in stone. Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
Based on a real life story, this tale ping pongs back and forth from 1919 - 1950's. Tragically, four year old Rachel and her six year old brother became orphans when their mother discovered their father's indiscretion and impregnation of a young , unmarried co-worker. As their mother confronted the
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father, a knife and anger brought about an accidental slit which led to the death of their mother.

The children are taken to the Hebrew Orphans Asylum in New York City. Deloused and hair cut dramatically, Rachel's experience worsens as a new female radiologist Dr. Mildred Solomon is bent on becoming at the top of the ranks in breakthrough techniques using a newly discovered mode called radiology.

Originally, unknown consequences occurred as a result of repeated exposure; the sin is that Dr. Solomon continued these radiological experiments long after children lost their hair and experienced compromised immune systems. Rachel was told to be a good girl and to allow Dr. Solomon to strap her to a table while exposing her to large doses of radiation.

Fast forward to 1954 when Rachel has survived, bald, and cancer ridden, and since leaving the home, became a nurse. Fate placed Dr. Solomon, now elderly and filled with cancer, in the hands of Rachel Rabinowitz. When confronted with the repercussions of Dr. Solomon's callous treatment, there is no apology. Insisting on calling Rachel Orphan #8, Dr. Solomon notes that she too has cancer and Rachel should feel sorry for her.

Now that Dr. Solomon is in Rachel's care, she turns the table and slowly, intentionally deprives her patient of the necessary Morphine needed.

This would have been an excellent book except that the sub plots and stories seemed to have so very little to do with the primary story. The book started well, but mid way meandered into boredom. I kept putting the book down with the intention of finding another. Yet, I was drawn to finish the story of Rachel and Dr. Solomon.

I wish this debut novel would have been tightly written. Following the path of Rachel and her sexuality wasn't germane to the story. If there was a connection, the author failed to clearly make a case for it.

Two and 1/2 stars.
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LibraryThing member JennysBookBag.com
Orphan Number Eight I stopped at page 100. I loved how it started - her childhood, how she ended up at the orphanage, and her experience there, but then it changed directions and I lost interest. Once the story changed to her adulthood and her nursing career, it got boring. Maybe it got interesting
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again and I missed it. I don't know. What I do know is that this wasn't what I was expecting and it left me feeling disappointed.
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LibraryThing member CasualFriday
This is an interesting, flawed work of historical fiction about an orphaned girl who is subjected to unethical medical experiments in the 1920s while living in a New York City orphanage. As an adult, she finds her herself the nurse of the very doctor who experimented on her. It's an interesting
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premise, ready-made for book discussions, yet the moral dilemma posed by the situation isn't really the center of the book - indeed, the book has so many different threads that there doesn't seem to be any center at all. The prose and especially the dialog is often clumsy and unconvincing. It was a fast read, and I liked the main character, Rachel. I'm guessing that the author will polish her craft a bit and give us a better book on her second round.
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LibraryThing member alekee
Orphan Number Eight is actually Rachael Rabinowitz’s story from beginning to the last page. We follow her from the age of four until she is facing a life threatening force, and you will empathize and feel for her all the way through, no mater if she is doing right or wrong.
Rachael is living with
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her family, her mother, father and brother in a tenement on New York’s lower east side. When tragedy strikes, this little girl’s world is turned up side down, and will never be the same. Rachael and Sam are sent to the Hebrew’s Orphanage Home, and her life takes a terrible turn.
We are with Rachel as she suffers from one injustice to another, and want to help, but the fact that this story is fiction, but based on fact, does not make it any better. To think that a Doctor could get away with giving numbers to children rather than names, hence number eight. It is brought out in the story, but I couldn’t help thinking that this place wasn’t much better than Hitler’s Nazi’s.
I couldn’t put this book down, once I turned the first page I had to read it to the end and it was less than a day, that I turned the final page. I wanted more, yes, but I wanted peace for Rachael.
I recommend this read as an eye opener; life can be very tough, especially for vulnerable children.

I received this book through Harper Collins Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review.
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LibraryThing member FictionZeal
Before the orphanage (1919), four-year-old Rachel and her older brother had a rather normal childhood. In the flash of a knife, Rachel and Sam‘s situation drastically changed. Their mother was dead; their father wiped his hands of the matter; they were separated and placed into a system in which
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children had no rights. Instead they were treated as ‘material’ for experimental purposes. The meat of the novel comes into play when Rachel grows up and becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home. Dr. Solomon is admitted to her ward. Dr. Solomon was her doctor at the orphanage. Rachel had blocked out what actually happened and chose to believe that the radiation treatments she’d received as a child were to cure her of some disease. A friend suggests that she do some research into this doctor and the orphanage. Upon opening the studies, the memories flood back in. Now Rachel is an able-bodied adult and Dr. Solomon is old and sickly. Rachel has the power to make life for Dr. Solomon very unpleasant. Will she?

Orphan Number Eight makes good fiction, except the orphanage is not only fictional. The author did extensive research to bring us face to face with the history of orphanages in the early 20th century. The story is more than captivating. It makes us mad. We want to go back in history and wake these people up. We want to shake them and tell them, these children are human beings; they have feelings; they have the right to grow up and live normal lives. So that the reader gets the full picture, the novel swings between Rachel’s childhood at the orphanage to her in 1953 as a nurse.

Rachel and Sam were fictional characters. A real character in the novel is Kim van Alkemade’s great-grandmother, Fannie Berger, who had been hired by the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in 1918 and was tasked with shaving the heads of newly admitted children as a precaution against lice. Much of the adult story of Rachel focused on her relationship with her girlfriend. I don’t feel that this added anything to the story. I would rather have seen more character development in both Rachel and Sam. Rating: 4 out of 5.
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LibraryThing member susiesharp
I didn’t feel like either the current or past storyline was fleshed out enough, at times it felt disjointed and I think it was because of not knowing enough about the characters. However I did find the story fascinating I never knew anything about these test done at orphanages’ also after
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reading some stories on the authors website I really wish she would have went deeper into these characters I feel like she just brushed the surface and I wish I knew more.

I hated the “romance” aspect of this book every time she grabbed someone’s face and pulled them into a kiss I was no longer in the story and Rachel’s sexual orientation had absolutely nothing to do with it , if she had been grabbing men’s faces I would have felt exactly the same. To me there was no reason for these it added nothing to the story and in fact detracted from it.

I can’t put my finger on what it is I don’t like about the narration, I’m not sure if it’s the tone, cadence or accent that I don’t like but there were times when the narration really annoyed me and other times I didn’t mind it. I am not sure who narrated what either so it may be that I like one narrator over the other but I am just not sure.

This book was okay; I liked the storyline about the Orphans Home even though I wish I knew more. I guess in the end this book just fell flat for me.

2 ½ Stars
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LibraryThing member Mishker
At the age of four Rachel Rabinowitz was placed into the Hebrew Infant Home, an orphanage for Jewish youth. In the Home it is decided that Rachel will be used for medical experiments; orphans make perfect test subjects where everything in their life can be controlled. Headstrong and unyielding, Dr.
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Mildred Solomon appears at the Home, breaking through a male barrier to the placement that she wanted. Dr. Solomon decides Rachel will be the best subject for her X-Ray experiments. A year after being relentlessly X-rayed, poked and prodded, a now bald and stunted Rachel is sent to the Orphaned Hebrews Home for older children. At the Home, she is ridiculed for her baldness, but finds friends and eventually comes to find her place as a nursing assistant. Thirty-five years later, a grown Rachel works in the Old Hebrews Home, taking care of hospice patients. Her memory is stirred one day when a new patient arrives with a name from her past, Mildred Solomon. Forced to remember the lost details of her cruel past, Rachel decides that it is time for Dr. Solomon to answer for her actions of the past and for setting Rachel’s life on the path the she now must take.
This is an emotionally packed journey that ended up being so much more than just historical fiction. I was intrigued by the Jewish Orphanages, and was surprised about how much the author took straight from history including some of the characters stories and the medical testing done on children. The descriptions of the home were vivid and brought the castle-like structure to life. Told through Rachel’s point of view as a child growing up in the Children’s Home and Rachel as an adult working at the Old Hebrew’s Home, there is a unique experience of seeing Rachel’s past confront her present and seeing the affect that her childhood has had on the actions that she is taking. Most of all though, I was entranced by Rachel and Dr. Solomon’s intertwined stories. These are both fiercely strong women who faced amazing adversity in their lives to get to where they are. At first I thought that this would be a story of revenge and redemption as the tables were turned on the two women; but it is really a story of growth, acceptance and love. In addition to Rachel facing Dr. Solomon, there were many other facets to the story that made it rich in history. Rachel’s sexuality and seeing how lesbians were treated in the 1950’s and her brother Sam’s involvement in the War and liberating a concentration camp added historical context. Overall, Orphan #8 is an intense emotional journey that blends historical fiction, coming of age and suspense.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member FictionZeal
Before the orphanage (1919), four-year-old Rachel and her older brother had a rather normal childhood. In the flash of a knife, Rachel and Sam‘s situation drastically changed. Their mother was dead; their father wiped his hands of the matter; they were separated and placed into a system in which
Show More
children had no rights. Instead they were treated as ‘material’ for experimental purposes. The meat of the novel comes into play when Rachel grows up and becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home. Dr. Solomon is admitted to her ward. Dr. Solomon was her doctor at the orphanage. Rachel had blocked out what actually happened and chose to believe that the radiation treatments she’d received as a child were to cure her of some disease. A friend suggests that she do some research into this doctor and the orphanage. Upon opening the studies, the memories flood back in. Now Rachel is an able-bodied adult and Dr. Solomon is old and sickly. Rachel has the power to make life for Dr. Solomon very unpleasant. Will she?

Orphan Number Eight makes good fiction, except the orphanage is not only fictional. The author did extensive research to bring us face to face with the history of orphanages in the early 20th century. The story is more than captivating. It makes us mad. We want to go back in history and wake these people up. We want to shake them and tell them, these children are human beings; they have feelings; they have the right to grow up and live normal lives. So that the reader gets the full picture, the novel swings between Rachel’s childhood at the orphanage to her in 1953 as a nurse.

Rachel and Sam were fictional characters. A real character in the novel is Kim van Alkemade’s great-grandmother, Fannie Berger, who had been hired by the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in 1918 and was tasked with shaving the heads of newly admitted children as a precaution against lice. Much of the adult story of Rachel focused on her relationship with her girlfriend. I don’t feel that this added anything to the story. I would rather have seen more character development in both Rachel and Sam. Rating: 4 out of 5.
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LibraryThing member pdebolt
Orphan Number 8 is a fictional account of the life of Rachel Rabinowitz. When they were very young, Rachel and her brother, Sam, witnessed the death of their mother in an altercation with their father. The father fled to avoid prosecution, leaving them officially labeled as orphans and remanded to
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the custody of the Orphaned Hebrews Home in Manhattan. Through a series of unfortunate events, Rachel and Sam ended up spending the next ten years in an institutional environment. Rachel and other children were the subjects in a series of experiments by Dr. Mildred Solomon, which left Rachel with alopecia and, as an adult, diagnosed with cancer from massive radiation. As an adult, Rachel became a nurse and worked in a nursing home where Dr. Solomon arrived as a terminally ill patient with bone cancer. Ironically, Dr. Solomon's fate lay in Rachel's hands as Rachel was forced to make life-altering decisions that vacillated between revenge and compassion. Rachel's life is filled with heartbreak and moments of courage that most of us will never be able to comprehend. One Hebrew phrase struck me as particularly meaningful: "tikkun olam", which is the belief that it is everyone's responsibility to help someone else, for the good of us all. That is the message I will take from this book.
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LibraryThing member txwildflower
The dark story of a young girl and her brother who were placed in an orphanage after their father kills their mother and then disappears. The girl is used for experiments along with other children and as a result loses her hair. She was never grateful for the small things and even stole money from
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her only friend and ran away. She was filled with self pity most of her life and never counted her blessings. Did not care for the book and it was a very slow read.
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LibraryThing member alekee
Orphan Number Eight is actually Rachael Rabinowitz’s story from beginning to the last page. We follow her from the age of four until she is facing a life threatening force, and you will empathize and feel for her all the way through, no mater if she is doing right or wrong.
Rachael is living with
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her family, her mother, father and brother in a tenement on New York’s lower east side. When tragedy strikes, this little girl’s world is turned up side down, and will never be the same. Rachael and Sam are sent to the Hebrew’s Orphanage Home, and her life takes a terrible turn.
We are with Rachel as she suffers from one injustice to another, and want to help, but the fact that this story is fiction, but based on fact, does not make it any better. To think that a Doctor could get away with giving numbers to children rather than names, hence number eight. It is brought out in the story, but I couldn’t help thinking that this place wasn’t much better than Hitler’s Nazi’s.
I couldn’t put this book down, once I turned the first page I had to read it to the end and it was less than a day, that I turned the final page. I wanted more, yes, but I wanted peace for Rachael.
I recommend this read as an eye opener; life can be very tough, especially for vulnerable children.

I received this book through Harper Collins Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review.
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LibraryThing member beckyhaase
ORPHAN #8 by Kim Van Alkemade
When the book opens Rachel (orphan 8) is a tantrum throwing 4 year-old. At the end she is a middle- aged spinster disappointed with life. Rachel has the misfortune soon after her mother’s death to be the “material” for a woman doctor seeking to make her way in a
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man’s world. The repercussions of the experiment color all of Rachel’s life. Told in alternating chapters switching between the young Rachel and the middle-aged Rachel, we understand why she is disappointed. We also know that she has had many opportunities most orphans never have and Rachel has failed to appreciate.
Rachel is creatively and skillfully written, unfortunately, we see all the remaining characters through the prism of Rachel. These other characters remain flat throughout and the book ends too early. I would have liked another chapter or two to see the “redeemed” Rachel if, indeed, she is.
Book group will find a number of topics – orphanages, betrayal, family loyalty, medical care/experimentation, women’s opportunities, assisted suicide, lesbianism, charity, revenge – to discuss.
3 of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member caseylondon
Hurt and fear, are not things we want children to experience. We don't expect healthy children to be test subjects in medical experiments that can physically harm them for life. Kim Van Alkemade's ORPHAN 8, an historical novel, is based on New York City's Home for Hebrew Infants and the Hebrew
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Orphan Asylum, where in the mid-1900's into the 1920's children were used as test subjects for a number of medically questionable studies. Radiation exposure left some children bald for life and probably gave them serious physical side effects that may have caused other issues in later life.

The author's Great-Grandmother worked at the Asylum and raised (or at least saw) her two sons while she was employed at the facility. Van Alkemade was fascinated by the stories. When looking through the Home's records she found a reference to buying wigs for children who'd had x-rays, and thus it became the basis for her novel.

The novel is fascinating for it's writing and the journey the reader takes with Rachel, the main character who goes from terrified child to adult. From little Rachel at home, to a scared child in an overwhelming institutional environment, to an adult suddenly faced with the woman who experimented upon her body.

Now the tables have turned and Rachel is the medical professional. She has the opportunity as the nurse assigned to a case to see the physician who scarred her for life - what will Rachel do to the elderly woman now in her care? The ethics at play are almost unbearable - the psychological nuance between the two women, one elderly, quite ill and unrepentant, the other still emotionally fragile from her childhood.

It's a book that is as intriguing as it is readable. Well written and fascinating, it draws the reader into the shadows of Rachel's thirst for revenge and her opportunity for forgiveness. How she chooses, and what she chooses make for a captivating novel. I was pleased to review this novel thanks to Harper Collins for the free book!
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LibraryThing member Sharn
What did I think?

I wanted to give this book more stars but I had a few issues. While someone else said, the book was well researched and the story was told well enough, I just got bored a bit somewhere around the middle. I believe the characters were developed just enough although there was room
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for improvement there too.

I have a problem with "her". This big secret through the whole book. At one point I wondered who "she" was and thought I knew but was wrong according to the story only to find out that a small paragraph had me all screwed up. And there were a few typos.

I will say the first 25% of this book was so hard for me to read probably because it was written the best; I was appalled.

I will recommend.

Thanks to LibraryThing and William Morrow for giving me a chance to read and review it.
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LibraryThing member susan0316
This is the story of Rachel and her brother Sam who live with their parents in NYC in the 20s. Through a tragic happening, they are sent to the Jewish orphanage in New York (that really did exist) and separated from each other. Because Rachel is only 4, she is put in the area for babies and during
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the time that she is there, a doctor uses her for medical experiments. The story is well told with alternating chapters taking place in the orphanage and the other chapters take place in the 50s when she is a nurse at the Jewish Nursing home. By presenting the story this way, we learn her past as we are learning about her current life. She is stunned when the doctor who performed the medical experiments on her becomes her patient. Rachel wants an apology from the doctor but is she capable of inflicting pain to get that apology? This is her ethical dilemma. This is a fantastic book and the characters, especially Rachel are well drawn. This is a novel that will stay with you for a long time.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
There is a hell of a lot going on in this book. In the early twentieth century, four year old Rachel and her brother are put in a Jewish orphanage after their father "accidentally" kills their mother. In the orphanage, Rachel is subjected to a series of x-ray tests that will have significant
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effects on her life, the most obvious being her permanent baldness. Despite all the odds, she does pretty well for herself eventually becoming a nurse. Rachel had pretty well blocked out her childhood, but when one of the patients she's treating turns out to be a doctor that tested on her, it all comes rushing back. She is forced to confront her past and come to terms with how it is affecting her future. This book does a great job illustrating problems that minorities (Jews, orphans, women, lesbians) faced in the first half of the twentieth century and does a great job of outlining the historical basis for the book in the afterward. Dark, but enlightening.
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LibraryThing member indygo88
This is a fictional story based loosely on actual events that occurred in New York City in 1919 and beyond. Rachel and her brother Sam, children of Jewish parents, are traumatized early in the story when their mother dies suddenly and their father deserts them, leaving them in the care of the
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Jewish orphan system. At a young age, Rachel is subject to a series of experimental x-ray procedures, resulting in some long-lasting effects. Fast forward to the 1950's, where Rachel is working as a nurse in a Jewish hospice home. There, she comes face-to-face with the doctor who subjected her to the x-rays she had as a child. She then must decide if she wants to take revenge.

This was an interesting historical fiction novel in and of itself. The author has some familial ties to the real events of this book, and the afterward following the story is enlightening, highlighted by some actual photographs of the time period. But while it was interesting, I didn't feel it was written in a way to really capture the reader. Additionally, there was a side plot exploring Rachel's eventual self-discovery of herself as a lesbian, and while I can give or take plots such as that, in this case, it really didn't seem to add anything to the main story and was a distraction, not really fitting in with the main story. Had that been excluded & had the writing been a little more engaging, I would've rated this higher.
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LibraryThing member auntmarge64
The disturbing story of a Jewish-American orphan told in alternating timelines, one during her childhood (post-WWI) and the other in the 1950s, when she comes face-to-face with the doctor who did radiation experiments on her in the orphanage.

After her father kills her mother and disappears, 4-year
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old Rachel and her brother Sam are institutionalized and separated, with Rachel being sent to the Hebrew Infants Home in Manhattan. While in isolation as a newcomer she is spotted by a young doctor yearning to make her way in a man's profession, and Rachel becomes the subject of several experiments, one of which leaves her body hairless for the rest of her life and puts her at risk for early cancer. As a nurse years later, she finds herself with a new patient: the very same doctor, now elderly and dying. Rachel has always believed the radiation was a treatment for an illness she had, but comments the doctor makes sends her to the medical library, where she learns the truth and plots revenge. Intertwined in both timelines is Rachel's' lesbianism, which is an interesting story in itself but unnecessary for the main drama and, because of that, feels forced.

The most difficult aspect of this book for the reader is that the experiments on the children are based on actual events, and it was sickening to read. The main character doesn't shy from the obvious comparison to Nazi medical "research", while the doctor is given a chance to state her case, which is partially to see the experiments as the children's way of repaying society for caring for them. Jeez....tell that to a terrified 4-year old who has lost all she held dear in life.

Well told, but perhaps not for the squeamish.
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LibraryThing member ReadingGrrl
Beautiful and tragic. This book reminded me of The Sunflower: On the Possibility and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal . Both bring up the question of forgiveness. Can Rachel forgive Dr. Solomon for what she did to her as a child? The narration of the book switches back and forth from 1919
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when Rachel is a young girl in a Jewish Orphanage and years later when she is a nurse taking care of elderly patients one of whom is the Doctor who experimented on her as a young child.

Complex and riveting this book submerges you and makes you think about humanity and what might be your capacity for forgiveness, love and evil. There is also a subplot of lgbt rights, the troubling reality that hospital visits, and being out were not allowed. Very good book.
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LibraryThing member theeccentriclady
I chose to request this book from Librarything's early reviewers because I had read The Orphan Train and I was interested to read more along these lines. There are multiple story lines in this book that help keep the story moving along quickly. For me it is important to learn new things while
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reading and this book did not disappoint there. Kim touches on several controversial subjects that if you are open minded keep you wondering what you might do in the same situation. Orphan #8 is a thought provoking book that will make for a great book club discussion.
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LibraryThing member booklovers2
Interesting story based on the Hebrew Orphans Asylum of New York set in the 1950's. The story is based on the jewish ran home for orphans where her grandfather and uncle were raised and her Great Grandmother Fannie Berger ran the Reception area of the home. Fictional characters Rachel & Sam
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Rabinowicz, orphaned by the murder of their mother and abandonment of their father are sent to the Hebrew Orphans home and separated where Rachel is sent to Infant home as she was under 6 years old. At the orphans home Rachel was subjected to experimental X-ray treatments which left her with a life long case of alopecia marking her for life. Once Rachel is old enough to join Sam, they are still separated within the community of over 1000 children and Sam's promise to protect Rachel becomes more difficult as they mature to teenagers and an incident at the Purmir Dance causes Sam to run away. Rachel eventually discovers where Sam has gone and thinking he has found their father, steals money and flees the orphan home to join him in Colorado. As her expectations of a happy reunion with her father and family unravel, once again Rachel finds herself alone and fending for herself. Meeting up with the Cohen/Abram Family she finds a new purpose and begins her medical career as a nursing aide with help of Dr Abrams. Fast forward to her return to New York to find Naomi and make amends for taking her savings, she ends up working at the Hebrew Nursing Home where a Doctor Mildred Soloman, the docotor who administered the x-rays on her so many years before becomes her patient. Memories flash back and she learns that the treatments administered to her were not for a disease she had but as experimental, coming to terms with her current medical issues and the woman who was responsible for her life long health issues, she is faced with seeking revenge or forgiving the woman who shows no remorse for what she has done.
Very interesting story, the back of the book gives details on the author's family and how she was inspired to write this story.
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LibraryThing member Cherylk
I had this book for a while and just now got around to picking it up and reading it. The beginning started out really good. It grabbed my interest and I was ready for more. To be honest when I read the summary for this book I thought that the experiments that Dr. Mildred Solomon was conducting
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would be like Dr. Arthur Arden from American Horror Story season two, Asylum. Thank goodness it was not that horrible but still I can't imagine having to endure the things that Rachel did at such a young age. The even greater challenge was how Rachel reacted when the tables were turned with Dr. Solomon as her patient.

The flash back moments where good and I thought the transfer from the past to the present was smooth. They were brought up at the right moments within the story. However the story itself grew somewhat stale for me about midway and I stayed middle of the road the rest of the way until the end. Yet, reading about the true events that inspired this book and seeing the pictures at the back of this book was very sad and had me intrigued.
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LibraryThing member nicolewbrown
Kim van Alkemade has written several articles in magazines that have been described as "creative non-fiction", whatever that may be. While researching her family genealogy, she came across a reference to a Medical Journal article that shocked her and she felt compelled to tell the story, but in a
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fictionalized novel. Some of the people in this book are actually real. Some are actually her relatives. While the girl, Rachel Rabinowitz and her brother Sam are works of fiction, what happens to Rachel, is not. This is an important book that raises questions about science and its practice, and whether you can forsake justified vengeance and forgive the unforgivable.

In 1919 the Jewish family, the Rabinowitzs, which consists of Harry, the father who works in a shirtwaist factory, who is saving for the chance to have his own contractor business, goes to Society meetings to make contacts, and is hoping to move his family up to the nicer neighborhood of Harlem; Visha, his wife, who wants another child and dreams of moving out of their three room tenement, where she looks after two borders and the two children, Rachel, four (who is known for her temper tantrums that only her brother can seem to stop) and Sam, six, who just started school. When Harry forgets his lunch, Visha and Rachel go to the factory, which Harry has forbidden them to do. When they return home, an angry Italian mother and her eighteen-year-old daughter show up at her house telling her that Harry, who met the girl at work, has been courting her daughter and has gotten her pregnant. It's hard to tell which ticks her off more: that her daughter is pregnant by a man already married or that he is really Jewish. Visha realizes that he has lied to her. There is no money being saved up. When he returns home, the two get into a fight and Harry accidentally cuts Visha's neck, in front of the two children. While she bleeds to death on the floor, Harry quickly packs up and runs away.

The children end up going to social services, where a nice woman is determined to find a foster home for them. Unfortunately, the two will have to be split up for now due to their ages, until she can find a home. Sam goes to the Hebrews Orphanage Home and Rachel goes to the Infant Hebrew Home. When she gets there, the social worker is told that Rachel will have to spend a month in isolation to make sure she does not have any diseases. This was 1919. Many of the diseases that we have vaccines for now, could kill children back then. A month later when the social worker returns with the news that a nice Jewish couple in Harlem is willing to take them both, she finds that Rachel now has both measles and conjunctivitis and will not be well enough to be taken in by this couple anytime soon, so she looks for another placement for the couple. The Infant Home would be seen as perhaps, hellish, to those of us today, and I have to admit it rather is. The nurses do not believe in touching the babies. Dr. Hess (a real person, who was the son-in-law of Strauss, the founder of Macy's, which is where the Home gets its money for fancy equipment) runs experiments on the children. He sees them as no better than lab rats, in that they are actual human subjects whose situations, such as home life, background, diet, etc...are the same and therefore variables can be controlled, which is a rarity in scientific research. Rachel's life changes when she meets Dr. Mildred Solomon a female doctor, an oddity of the time, who is there to do her residency and wants to run her own experiment, get published, establish herself, and get out of there.

This book goes back and forth between Rachel's past growing up and her present as a nurse in the Hebrews Home for the elderly. Rachel has many secrets. One is that she is a lesbian whose partner is away in Miami, for some unknown reason. When Dr. Solomon arrives on her floor, the hospice ward, terminally ill with bone cancer, she recognizes her and talks to her and finds out that she was a doctor at the Infant Home when she was there. She has always wondered what disease she had that necessitated some form of treatment. When she goes to the Medical Library she uncovers the horror of what happened in the Home and to her. She was "material # 8". She also discovers that because of that she is in grave danger of developing a serious disease that could kill her.

After leaving the Infant Home almost two years later, Rachel goes to the Hebrews Orphan Home, where she meets Mrs. Berger at reception, who works there while her son, Vic, is housed there. Vic's best friend just happens to be Rachel's brother Sam. While finally reunited, Sam has become hardened by his years in the Home where the bells ring constantly for every possible thing and the orphans respond like Pavlov's dogs sensing exactly when the bell is going to ring and making sure they are where they are supposed to be so they don't get slapped by the monitor (an orphan who is in charge of level and is usually two years older) or worse. There are 1000 kids in the home [my alma mater Catawba College, in Salisbury, NC, only had a little over 800 students and much more space], which is a large castle that takes up a whole city block in New York City. The book has a photograph of it. It may seem really bad, but actually, a state home is so much worse. At least here they receive dental care, medical care, three meals a day, and decent clothes and shoes to wear.

Sam, determined to look after his sister, bribes one of her monitors, Naomi, to look after her. Naomi gives her an "acceptable" nickname because it's better to pick what others call you then to have them call you something worse. Naomi is good to her and treats her almost like a friend and it's not just because Sam bribes her. The years pass and more things happen in Rachel's life, some good and some bad. [Reviewer's Note: a character in this book, Amelia, is given special treatment because she has long, beautiful red hair. I, too, have always have had long red hair, but I have not received special treatment for it. From fifth grade to middle school, I was teased for it, until I took a hardback book, corner-side pointed out, punched Scott Baker in the stomach with it. Guys wanted to date blondes, not red-heads. In college, I discovered men who felt differently, and I admit, that now, I am a bit vain about my hair. But I have never forgotten the teasing or the seeming obsession by the world for blondes].

This is an incredible book. Is Dr. Solomon a Dr. Mengele? She thinks a bit like him, but what she does (and Dr. Hess for that matter), while inexcusable, is nothing compared to what Mengele did. Rachel wants an apology, but it does not seem that she is going to get it. She is given an opportunity to work the night shift where it's just her and one other nurse and she has already been holding back on the amount of morphine she has been giving Solomon for days. Now she is in control. She has the power. She can cause Solomon to suffer and then kill her for what she has done to her. But is Rachel capable of such an act? Can she really do this? The question you find yourself asking is what would you do. And the answer is not an easy one.

Quotes
Gloria wrote in our shifts, twelve hours on every other day, extra days off popping up as unpredictably as Jewish holiday.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan # 8 p 30)

“You listen to me now,” Mrs. Giovanni said… “Nothing is your fault. Never think that again. God can see inside you, right into your soul, and He knows you did nothing wrong. Remember that, Rachel, if you ever feel alone or afraid.” Looking at the C-ray images, Rachel imagined this was what God saw when he looked at her. Where on the radiograph, she wondered, did it show right from wrong?

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan # 8 p 90)

When Rachel hung her towel and stepped under a showerhead, the new girl realized with a thrill she’d spotted something more valuable than an equal: someone worse off than herself.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan # 8 p 146)

We snorted in unison, the universal sound of nurses who know better than the doctors whose orders we follow.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 168)

That’s what it was like for me, killing myself to be first just so I’d be in a position to capitalize on the stupidity of others.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 172)

Delayed reaction most likely. You had a very upsetting experience. I’ll keep you here for a couple of days so you can rest up. We’ll say its mononucleosis if anyone asks.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 176)

She worked through the glossary letter by letter, abscess to xanthin. In bed at night, she’d run her finger down a column in the index and choose a disease to read about: bilious fever, creeping pneumonia, hookworm, mumps, palsy, typhoid. Bacillus tuberculosis, at twenty-six pages, put her to sleep for a week.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 181)

Rachel remembered reading in Nurse Dreyer’s copy of Essentials of Medicine that treatment for the disease consisted of rest, rich food, fresh air, sunlight, and, if possible, freedom from worry. She wondered how someone with tuberculosis could not be worried.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 288)

The white people, they think Indians and Chinese are both dirty, no matter how clean we make their shirts.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 306)

If good only came to those who deserved it, the world would be a bleak place.

--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 336)
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LibraryThing member Dianekeenoy
I received this book through Librarythings Early Review and so glad that I did. While this book is fiction, it is based on fact. This becomes horrifying as Rachel Rabinowitz, at age 4, is placed in the Hebrew Infant Home when her mother dies and her father disappears. While the orphans' physical
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needs are taken care of, some of them are also used in experiments. This doesn't take place in Nazi Germany but in New York City on the early 1920's. There are multiple layers to this story which moves between the early years of Rachel's life and 1954 where she works on the hospice floor of the Old Hebrews Home. I have 7 books that I needed to be reading to return to my library. However, when I picked up this book that had just arrived from the publisher, William Morrow, I never put it down until I finished it late last night. Definitely recommended and can't wait for Kim van Alkemade's next book!
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LibraryThing member Smits
Really enjoyed this book. We follow Rachel a 4 year old orphan placed in the Hebrew Infant home . She grows up there becoming orphan #8 in X-ray experiments where she looses her hair and it never comes back. She is looked after at a distance by her brother and a few good people like Niomi.We follow
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Rachel as an adult where she is a nurse in the Old Hebrew Home and winds up with Dr Soloman as a patient, the woman who had experimented on her. The novel brings young Rachel up to date with adult Rachel as she discovers and learns to deal with her cancer diagnosis.
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Original publication date

2015

ISBN

0062338303
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