"As a work of historical fiction, Mary Toft accomplishes more than the usual level of authenticity. Dexter Palmer laces together the real historical records and publications with his own wild imaginings, breathing life into one of the most bizarre medical oddities of the 18th century. Without spoiling any of the horrifying visuals Palmer includes, I will say that I read half of this book while grimacing behind close-knit fingers."
"As thrillingly compelling of a character-driven novel as it is a stomach-churning exploration of inscrutable medical cases. Like a cross between The Knick and The Wonder, Mary Toft hooked me from the aberrant moment its protagonists bond and doesn't let up from there. I never wanted it to end (even when it grossed the hell out of me)."
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 becomes a regular occurrence, John and Zachary 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 several 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 existence and is exposed to some of the darkest 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 another birth, another miracle.