Dexter Palmer digs up an old gem of a story from 1700s England and puts his particular touch to this tale based on the real-life account of Mary Toft, a wife and field laborer who appeared to give birth to several dead rabbits. Doctors of the era were at first horrified and confused, then wondered if they were witness to a miracle, then later, despite actually delivering rabbit parts from Toft, were doubtful and suspicious. They called in more doctors and Lords and Dukes and even the King was involved. Palmer fleshes out this story with characters that are caught in something much larger than themselves — a real moral dilemma facing these early physicians. When it appears that careers may be destroyed and lives imploded, they are frantic to find out the truth. Palmer flexes some serious historical fiction writing chops here, exploring themes of unexplained phenomena, the pressures of public opinion, the split and intermingling of religion and science, the egregious appetite for the public display of deformity and misery, the ever-present effects of class and income inequality, and the biggest question out there: What is human? Do not miss this fascinating story. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In 1726, in the town of Godalming, England, a woman confounded the nation's medical community by giving birth to seventeen rabbits. This astonishing true story is the basis for Dexter Palmer's stunning, powerfully evocative new novel.
Surgeon's apprentice Zachary Walsh knows that his master, John Howard, prides himself on his rationality. But John cannot explain how or why Mary Toft, the wife of a local journeyman, has managed to give birth to a dead rabbit. When this singular event be-comes a regular occurrence, John and Zach-ary realize that nothing in their experience as rural physicians has prepared them to deal with a situation like this--strange, troubling, and possibly miraculous. John contacts sev-eral of London's finest surgeons, three of whom soon arrive in Godalming to observe, argue, and perhaps use the case to cultivate their own fame.
When King George I learns of Mary's plight, she and her doctors are summoned to London, where Zachary experiences a world far removed from his small-town ex-istence and is exposed to some of the dark-est corners of the human soul. All the while Mary lies in bed, as doubts begin to blossom among her caretakers and a growing group of onlookers waits with impatience for an-other birth, another miracle.