[I]ts historical setting and language [are] densely and effectively styled. Manning is best when writing about the wretched squalor of 19th-century urban childhood and the orphan trains that transported children from city streets to willing foster homes across the country. In places, you can even squint and pretend you're reading Angela's Ashes.
Alex Kuczynski - New York Times Book Review
Manning’s sophisticated, intelligent novel is brought to life by the vivid voice in which her central character tells her own story.
Sunday Times (London)
Paint[s] a landscape of old New York that’s both quaint and terrifying, where love can be bartered over a back-stoop picnic and slander awaits around cobblestoned corners. Come for the notoriety, stay for the sympathy.
(Starred review.) Loosely based on the life of Ann Trow Lohman (aka Madame Restell), the infamous abortionist who became known as "the Wickedest Woman in New York," Manning’s second rags-to-riches novel (after Whitegirl) nimbly resurrects the bold woman behind the scandalous headlines.... [T]he details of Madame X’s private life, told in her thick Irish brogue—about the search for her long-lost siblings, her fiery relationship with her devoted husband, and her growth as a mother...lend a human face to a this sensational figure.
[A] compelling and tragic (in its way) success story. Manning convincingly presents willful nineteenth-century child Axie Muldoon, based on an actual person.... [W]itnessing her mother’s unnecessary death inflamed a coal in Axie’s heart that burned for every woman she encountered who faced uniquely feminine perils. Manning’s fascinating dramatization of the hazards of her protagonist’s pillar-to-post childhood and slave-labor apprenticeship...vividly and movingly portray an unsympathetic world for women. —Donna Chavez
A rollicking romp through 19th-century American contraception inspired by the true story of a Manhattan midwife.... The ensuing events highlight controversies regarding "reproductive health" that are still raging today. Axie's profane Irish brogue is vividly recreated with virtually no anachronistic slips, and though a certain degree of polemical crusading is unavoidable given Axie's proclivities, her voice never fails to entertain.
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