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The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery

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The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery

Current Status:
In Season
Michelle Stacey
Nonfiction, Historical Fiction

We gave it an A

During the last half of the 19th century the spiritual and secular mingled murkily: Seances allowed John Wilkes Booth to dictate poems from beyond the grave, while scientists debated Darwinism and searched, with maps and microscopes, for the human soul. Into this era fell (literally) 18-year-old Mollie Fancher, who took to her bed once and for all after tumbling from a horsecar in 1865. Thirteen years later, the papers dubbed her the ”Brooklyn Enigma” because she swore she existed without eating. Spiritualists claimed her for their own — a girl so otherworldly she survived on air — while researchers labeled her a fraud, and an international sensation was born. Stacey’s ”Victorian medical mystery” is a compulsively readable account intertwining topics as diverse as the media, anorexia, religion, feminism, and the nature of entertainment. Its vibrancy is all the more impressive considering the tale revolves around a woman who didn’t leave her bed for 60 years. A