What I’m Reading: Orphan #8

I’ve decided to occasionally begin recommending books on my blog again. This is the first post in what I hope will be a long and interesting series.

This weekend I started reading Orphan #8: A Novel by Kim van Alkemade.

It’s about a preschooler named Rachel Rabinowitz who is orphaned in 1919. She’s separated from her older brother and sent to live at an orphanage run by a doctor who uses the children under his care as test subjects in medical experiments.

No, this isn’t a horror novel.

It’s actually loosely based on real events. A hundred years ago, prisoners, orphans, and the mentally ill were used as test subjects. Some of the experiments were dangerous. Many of them were painful and/or caused longterm health problems.

Rachel grows up and becomes a nurse. She seems to have put her difficult past behind her and moved on to create a happy life for herself as an adult.

One day she recognizes one of her patients. The doctor who once experimented on her is now a sick, old man who is relying on her to look after of him.

How should we treat people who have harmed us terribly? Does it matter if they remember us or even realize what they’ve done?

The ethical questions in this book are what make me love it so much.

There are so many different ways to approach them. I can’t discuss most of them without giving away spoilers, but the storyline really made me think.

I will say that this isn’t a good choice for people who are squeamish. Rachel was purposefully infected with several different diseases while she was under the doctor’s care, and they were described in detail early on in the plot.

Knowing exactly what happened to her early on her life is critical to understanding the woman she became, though. Her character development wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

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