Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Impossible Girl" by Lydia Kang, Served Up with a Recipe for Smoked Oyster Pâté {Plus a Book Giveaway!}

Happy Wednesday! Here's to getting over the hump of this week and sliding closer to the weekend. Today I am very excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for The Impossible Girl, the new historical mystery novel by Lydia Y. Kang. Accompanying my review is an easy recipe for a Smoked Oyster Pâté, inspired by the many oysters in the mid 19th-century New York City setting. There's also a Rafflecopter giveaway for an opportunity to win a copy of The Impossible Girl at the bottom of the post. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. 

As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 18, 2018)
Publication Date: September 18, 2018

My Review:

OK, to get it out of the way and get on to the book review ... I LOVE the cover of this book! The color, the design, the way it fits the slightly macabre mystery vibe--Lydia Kang has some very cool book covers. I am also fascinated by early medical practices and oddities and as in her previous historical thriller, A Beautiful Poison (reviewed here), the author makes good use of her medical degree and detailed research in The Impossible Girl. Cora Lee has a very big secret, she is the whispered about medical oddity, a girl born with two hearts--something that both physicians and side shows would pay a large amount of money to display. This makes Cora's job as ironic as it is unusual--she is the city's best and only female grave digger or ressurectionist, with her gang she digs up the bodies of wealthy, deceased New Yorkers with medical abnormalities, from a young woman with a four-inch tail and an unusually tall gentleman with "abnormally long limbs and fingers," to a woman with a neck tumor that has hair and teeth. Cora has a list of these potential finds and waits for word of their passings, but it seems like the bidders for these bodies are impatient as mysterious deaths are claiming Cora's list and rumors about the "impossible" two-hearted girl are growing. 

There is history, science, mystery and romance in The Impossible Girl. Cora is a great character and I happily followed her story, looking for clues as to who in Cora's circle might be betraying her. I had some parts figured out, but there were surprises and Lydia Kang had me fully engaged and entertained by Cora's world. Her research is detailed and her vivid descriptions and writing bring the history and certainly the science to life. If you like mysteries that lean to the dark side and explore both the underbelly and the higher societies of New York, and you don't mind a bit of murder, medical details, and creepy grave robbing thrown in, you will enjoy this one--it's a fun ride and a great book for a dark October night. (Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a copy for your shelves below!)


Author Notes: Lydia Kang is a physician and the author of A Beautiful Poison. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine. She currently lives in the Midwest with her family, where she continues to practice internal medicine. Visit her at

Connect with Lydia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Food Inspiration:

There is a lot of food in The Impossible Girl--a good portion of it oyster-related (see note below). Mentions included pork joint, pastries, flour, boiling soup, meat pies, pudding, blueberries and blackberries, coddled eggs, currant buns, moldy bread, a dinner of pork roast, boiled potatoes and flour biscuits, bread and cheese, peppermint candy, roast goose, roast beef, clam soup with extra bread and butter, mutton and taters, "fine Croton water" (The Old Croton Aqueduct was a large and complex water distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842), malt liquor, brandy and German lager, cakes, raspberry cordial, coffee, a warm, sweet loaf speckled with raisins, and sweet buns, punch, baked eggs, tiny pies--both savory and sweet including oyster, egg and ham pies, treacle, cheese and crabapple jelly, beef tea (broth), jam, buttery gruel, gin, wine, baked eggs, tea, slices of roast ham and bread, apples, chicken, whiskey, rum, iced cake, and plain buns from the bakery. Oyster mentions from the various saloons included a plate of raw oysters and oysters fried, baked, stewed, roasted, stuffed in a fowl, oyster pie, and duck in oyster sauce, and a steaming plate of oysters, dotted with black pepper.

Sometimes a book calls for a certain dish or ingredient. In this case it was definitely oysters as their consumption at seedy oyster cellars and bars were a key setting in the book. Here's a fun article from the New York Times on the abundance and popularity of oysters in the mid 19th-century: City Lore: When the Oyster Was Their World by Mark Kurlansky. I knew I wanted my dish to center around oysters and since good, fresh or fresh-frozen oysters are not that easy to get reasonably here, I wanted to make something with canned oysters. Other criteria was it had to be fast-to-make and something I would eat (oysters and I are a bit tentative in our relationship--we hang out very occasionally if we must, but don't gravitate to each other). My mom used to make oyster stew, but it's just too humid for that and so I decided to forgo any historical accuracy of recipe and go for a more modern and easy dip. There were plenty of recipes to be found but I liked the sound and ingredient list of the Smoked Oyster Pâté recipe I found at Food52. I made two tiny changes--noted in red below.

Smoked Oyster Pâté 
Very Slightly Adapted from Waverly via
(Serves 4-6)

1 8 oz tub cream cheese
3 Tbsp milk (+ more if needed)
4 Tbsp green onions, finely chopped white and some green parts
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
2 tsp Tabasco sauce, or to taste (I used about 3 tsp)
(I added 1 tsp lemon juice, or to taste)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 (4 oz) can smoked oysters, drained and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, pour the cream cheese, milk, green onions, Worcestershire, Tabasco, garlic, and parsley. Stir to combine. If the mixture seems too thick, thin it with a teaspoon or two more milk. (It should be thick but everything should be evenly blended.) Fold in the oysters. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes/Results: I found this to be a tasty little spread. I realize that oysters are not everyone's 'thing' and if you detest them or can't eat them this is likely not the recipe to win you over but, if you are lukewarm or on the fence it could move you into the oyster appreciation camp. It's hard to argue with cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco and what they do with the smoky oysters. I did add extra Tabasco as well as a bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten things up and liked it it with the hint of lemon. The flavors on this one do get better after it sits, so make it ahead. Food52 recommends buttered and toasted baguette slices which would be nice but I also liked the crunch of the poppy seed & black pepper crackers and crisp cucumber.   

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Impossible Girl" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



The publisher is generously providing a copy of "The Impossible Girl" to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me a period of history you enjoy reading about OR a food you like that others don't AND/OR why you'd like to win a copy of "The Impossible Girl."

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii)
and/or author Lydia Kang (@LydiaYKang). (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Wednesday, October 3rd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Good Luck!


  1. My favorite historical period to read about is probably around the WWI to WWII era. So many changes were happening then. And I love Lydia Kang's writing. I really enjoyed her book A Beautiful Poison. There was quite a bit of medical and science stuff in that one too.

  2. I sometimes like oysters, but haven't had them in years. I liked A Beautiful Poison so I bet I'd like this too.

  3. This sounds like a book I would enjoy - thanks for the review- I have to pass on the oysters

  4. I haven't had oysters in quite awhile, but your dip sounds very convincingly tasty, so I'll probably make it -- soon. The book would be an interesting look at a creepy and weird profession, not to mention illegal and immoral. Just saying.

  5. I'm not game for oysters....sigh. cheers from Carole's Chatter

  6. I agree, this cover is fabulous! Thanks for being on the tour!


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