Recommended by Michelle, Kathleen, and Steve
The Good Thief
By Hannah Tinti
Published by Dial Press
Michelle says, "The Good Thief is a rare find, a feat of imagination that thrills and captivates the reader from the first chapter. Set in Colonial New England, the unsettled and unlikely cast of heroes faces squalor and hard luck with a curious mix of deadpan humor and hope. Tinti tells a gripping tale about a one-handed orphan boy named Ren and his search to unravel the mystery of his past. The answer might lie with the charismatic and enigmatic con man, Benjamin Nab, who adopts twelve-year-old Ren from St. Anthony’s orphanage. Nab introduces Ren to a shadowy world of thieves, grave robbers, and mercenaries. A quirky household forms around Ren and Benjamin: Tom – an incurably drunk teacher, Mrs. Sands – who lets them stay for a night then can’t get rid of them, a dwarf - who lives on the roof and sneaks in at night by descending the chimney, and Dolly – a hired killer who was buried alive. Ren glues these strangers together in his humble desperation for a family, and he is the catalyst that cracks the hardened hearts of the adults around him who have been broken and scarred.
It’s not just the wonderful characters and plot that make The Good Thief a novel to treasure, it’s the talent and insight that Tinti exhibits with her assured writing style.
From the very first paragraph, the reader is a willing accomplice to the story. Tinti writes with a precise pen, using words with care – lavishly when Benjamin is in his tall-tale telling mode, and sparingly when a scene is sentimental:
“Is that what you wanted to hear?”
The man reached over, took hold of the lantern, and blew it out. Night enveloped the barn.
“Well,” he said at last to the darkness between them, “that’s when you know it’s the truth.”
The irrepressible Ren lodges in your heart with his mix of world weary acceptance and yearning hopefulness. His search for his place in the world reveals the most basic of human needs: the desire to love and be loved."
Steve says, "By dropping you right into the middle of the action at St. Anthony’s orphanage, Hannah Tinti’s debut novel takes you on a fast paced journey. Immediately we learn that the protagonist Ren may never be adopted because of a physical deformity. Ren and the other orphans pine away their hours wishing for ideal parents. Upon leaving St. Anthony’s, Ren is immersed in a world of mayhem that includes: graves, medical science, murder, thieves, child laborers, and liars. Redemption is a major theme in this novel. A stolen copy of Lives of the Saints nurtures Ren’s faith in the bad company he keeps. All the characters suffer, but by the end, we find their suffering was worth it. Critically, the language is simple and beautiful. Emotionally, the words of the story flow, creating a fast paced fable, like a road race in Munchkinland. Our book club’s praise for The Good Thief was unanimous. I loved it so much that I read parts aloud to my wife. She is now anxious to read it too. I plan on buying copies for family and friends."
Kathleen says, "Let’s be frank, anyone who has ever been a member of a book club has been forced to read a book they would never have picked up on their own...and after having read the book, now had concrete evidence to back up their original reluctance. This is NOT the case with The Good Thief. True, I was forced to read it, but having been drawn into Hannah Tinti’s imagination from the very first paragraph, I was glad to accept my fate.
With few words, Ms. Tinti does an outstanding job imparting Ren’s desperation and the constant imagining of what life would be like with parents. When a man named Benjamin finally picks Ren out of the line-up, you find yourself warning Ren “be careful what you wish for.” As Benjamin and Ren set out together living a life of criminal pursuits, they meet characters that are both intensely flawed and uniquely endearing. Through a deft use of words and exceptional story-telling, this author raises the themes of family relationships, self-sacrifice, and the ultimate wish – to belong.
To add just the right amount of mystery to a novel, and keep the reader hanging on until the very last page, is truly an art - one that Hannah Tinti has mastered. For the beach, book club, travel or in the comfort of your own reading chair, I highly recommend The Good Thief to entertain, absorb and enthrall your inner-reader."