The Good Thief

The Good ThiefThe Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t know quite what this book wanted to be. It’s not really gothic, and not really spooky, but it has elements of that. Maybe sort of a cross of Tom Sawyer and Oliver Twist, with a lot of weird characters: a giant dug up from a recent burial who turns out to be alive and says he was “made for killing,” a dwarf who lives on the roof and comes down the chimney for his daily dinner from the landlady, an orphan with a missing hand, the man who adopts him leads a gang of petty thieves and grave robbers, and then there is the tycoon owner of the local mousetrap factory. I’m not sure I would have stuck with it and finished the book if it weren’t an audiobook. The narrator (William Dufris) did a good job with voices, and as one reviewer said, it’s a bit like listening to tall tales around a campfire.

Book description: Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve for his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys. He longs for a family to call his own and is terrified of the day he will be sent alone into the world. But then a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother, and his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand and his parents persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and to give Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is? Journeying through a New England of whaling towns and meadowed farmlands, Ren is introduced to a vibrant world of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves. If he stays, Ren becomes one of them. If he goes, he’s lost once again. As Ren begins to find clues to his hidden parentage he comes to suspect that Benjamin not only holds the key to his future, but to his past as well.

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The Boston Girl

The Boston GirlThe Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review contains spoilers!

I enjoyed listening to this story of a woman growing up and finding a career and love in the 1920s, but I’m struggling to say anything much about it. It is written as an 85-year-old being interviewed by her 22-year-old grand-daughter. You would think she is much younger. Addie keeps it upbeat and optimistic. She never calls her sister’s death a suicide, for example, attributing it to being clumsy in the kitchen, (unless I’m reading more into it than there was). Topics like working in sweatshops, World War I, the Spanish flu, the Depression, and discrimination of Jews and immigrants are minimized. She skips almost completely over World War II and the Holocaust, which must have impacted the Jewish community even in the U.S. She fell into a wonderful career and married a wonderful man, and it’s all a little too good to be true. So consider this an uplifting, even inspirational tale, told by someone who could be your own grandmother, or great-grandmother. My own grandmother wrote short stories about herself and her ancestors for her grandchildren that sound very much like this, just on a much smaller scale.

Book description: Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, the spirited daughter of an immigrant Jewish family, born in 1900 to parents who were unprepared for America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End of Boston, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine—a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, to finding the love of her life, eighty-five-year-old Addie recounts her adventures with humor and compassion for the naïve girl she once was.

The Headmaster’s Wife

The Headmaster's WifeThe Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lyrical book that will keep you guessing. I spent the first half of the book wondering why it is titled The Headmaster’s WIFE. First we get the shocking story of a man who seems lucid, but obviously not quite in his right mind. A story of love and lust and possibly murder. What is it that has caused him to unravel? The twist in the middle will throw all of your conclusions away, and we begin the story again from the point of view of the wife. Her story is one of loss and grief and a different kind of unraveling. Is she alive or is she dead? You’ll have to read to the end to find out. I didn’t like the characters, but I did find them compelling and developed a certain compassion for these two broken and hurting people. The ending was a bit ho-hum and I think could have been developed a bit better. It is a quick and easy read, and would make a good book club book. Lots of fuel for discussion.

Book Description: Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges. Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story and an exploration of the ties of place and family.