Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Review:
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief is a rare find, a feat of imagination that thrills and captivates the reader from the very 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.

Reviewed by Michelle.
For two more staff reviews of this same book,
click here.

To read Flavorwire's interview with Tinti, click here.