Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

It is fitting that the book that brings me back to my blog (after a few weeks of being too busy) is one that reminds me very much of the last book I wrote about, Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. The Good Thief is an adult novel, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to readers as young as 11 or 12. Like The Graveyard Book, The Good Thief has elements of darkness as well as an uplifting end note. In addition to the similar mood or feel, both stories are of young orphans making their way in the world with help from adults who appear from the outset to be unsuitable guardians.

Ren was abandoned as a baby and raised in an orphanage run by the brothers of Saint Anthony in New England. He has only one hand, and no knowledge of how he lost the other. When Ren is 12, Benjamin Nab, a man who says he is his older brother, claims him. This is the start of Ren's adventures.

Benjamin and his alcholic buddy, Tom, are liars, thieves and shysters. One scheme to make money has them digging up freshly interred bodies to sell to a medical doctor. (Another connection to The Graveyard Book.) Ren befriends a giant simpleton of a man who belives his calling in life is to murder people. All this sounds pretty dark, but the thieves and the murderer are good at heart and Ren does learn the truth about his parents.

I'm guessing that the story takes place in the early 19th century. Setting is not a prominent doorway into this book, which is unusual for historical fiction. Story and character are the main entry points, and inviting ones at that.

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