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The Good Thief Don t believe anyone who tells you anything good about this book The reviews on the back cover will be the first lies you ll have to ignore This book belongs in a trash can You should thank me, because I ve done the hard work of reading it so you don t have to The Good Thief aka, The Bad Book is meant to be a historical fiction novel for adults that tells the coming of age story of a 12 year old orphan boy who learns to live with a pair of rough and tumble thieves in early 1800s America So Don t believe anyone who tells you anything good about this book The reviews on the back cover will be the first lies you ll have to ignore This book belongs in a trash can You should thank me, because I ve done the hard work of reading it so you don t have to The Good Thief aka, The Bad Book is meant to be a historical fiction novel for adults that tells the coming of age story of a 12 year old orphan boy who learns to live with a pair of rough and tumble thieves in early 1800s America Sounds somewhat intriguing, right But don t get too excited As a piece of historical fiction, this book fails almost every test Did the author do enough research No Did she do a good job of making you get a sense of the time period, through skillful use of details and general ambience No Did the author call up a vivid sense of place or historical moment Absolutely not Did she tie in the action to the larger political or social events of the time Nope As far as the reader is concerned, this story is taking place in a social and political vacuum, in a non descript area that has some trees Ok, so maybe this is just supposed to be an adventure story that happens to take place in the past That s cool But the adventure is not even the sort that we care about Oh no A band of mysterious men wearing HATS of all things is chasing after the group They seem to have an aura of fear around them, which is somehow connected to their HATS The hats are totally irrelevant, as it turns out Oh no, the main characters are robbing graves to make money Creeeeepy Not really Oh no, Ren stole something But it s ok because he s nice to horses and thus not really a bad person at all Ok, so perhaps this novel fails as historical fiction and fails as adventure But maybe it could still succeed as a poignant coming of age tale The only hitch there is that the main character never actually grows up By the end of the story, he s still a dirty orphan who mistreats his two childhood friends, still doesn t have a clear sense of his place in the world, and isn t nearly as moral as the author would have us believe He s just a self absorbed, snotty little kid His coming of age consisted of learning that the moral rules of the real world outside his Catholic orphanage werepliable than he imagined Whoo So he became a street punk and not even a charming one at that That hardly qualifies as a poignant coming of age story, in my opinion Reviewers kept comparing him to Huck Finn and Oliver Twist, which either means they haven t read the novels that those characters come from and just want to sound smart, or they think all boys who have adventures away from their parents are somehow all alike.So this book fails every test we can think of for the genres that it taps into But, a charitable reader might think, perhaps the book has a good message to make up for it The message of the story such as it is is that people society normally considers bad like thieves and murderers and grave robbers can have good, warm hearts and hardy friendships The only problem is that we never actually get any evidence that these guys have good, warm hearts, and their relationships with each other aren t very deep or meaningful The only time the main character, Ren, is ever kind is when dealing with the group s horse In fact, whenever the action is getting too manly or rough, the author will have Ren reflect fondly on the horse as a way of making him a sympathetic character It s the classic you can trust this character because they re nice to animals trope, and Ren s goodness doesn t go much beyond that But Ren is nice to horses AND he steals things what rich ambiguity It s as though the author was using the formula good thief complex character Oooh, and it makes a nice, catchy title for the book The Good Thief Get it, because he s a thief, but he s also just a plain old good guy The world is full of all kinds of interesting folks But perhaps, you might want to ask, the story has a good villain Well, I already mentioned the pointless Hat Men who stalk the countryside being ineffective and hatty But there s also a fat Irishman in a yellow suit who owns a mousetrap factory, which you know is evil because it pumps black smoke into the sky BWHAHAHAHAHAHA You thought you had seen it all This guy is like a mustache twirling villain from a Disney straight to DVD movie about plucky children outwitting the rotund and mean factory owner, who stands there watching the mousetraps piling up and rubbing his sweaty hands with glee He s about as flat a villain as you could ask for, and him being Irish, or the fact that he makes mousetraps, or his weird candy fetish, never actually have any bearing on the story And then there s the dwarf The roof dwelling dwarf who makes toys out of wood The dwarf who serves absolutely no purpose in the story I am at a loss to explain this character s presence in the story He s the brother of a crazy landlady, and he eats preserves out of jars and reads fancy books in his shack on top of a roof And I think I ll leave it at that I just wanted to warn you that if you do read this book against my warnings, be prepared for a Pointless Dwarf.Between the Irish mousetrap guy and the dwarf, I thought I might have accidentally stumbled into a piece of children s literature, despite the fact that I found the book in the normal fiction section of the bookstore Here s the thing this book won the Alex Award, which is given to books intended for adults, but that have a special appeal for teens and children I think by special appeal for teens and children they mean simplistic writing that middle schoolers can easily follow and a plot that s about as rich and nuanced as a made for TV kids adventure movie Tinti s writing style is about as skull crushingly pedestrian as it comes Here s my re enactment of her narrative style for you First the characters did this Then they did this After that, they went here Then they went there Suddenly, this happened Then they all did this And then they found a place to sleep for the night I don t think Tinti had discovered the subordinate clause by the time she wrote this, but perhaps for her second novel, she ll have learned what those fancy clauses are all about This book is amazing Here are all the things that amaze me about it I m amazed it is actually considered an adult book I m amazed it made it through the front door of an editor s office and into the real world, rather than being quietly dropped down a garbage chute I m amazed that people including me have paid money for this book and I m amazed that reputable newspapers have given it good reviews and that some organizations actually felt it deserved awards Simply amazing Richly imagined, gothically spooky, and replete with the ingenious storytelling ability of a born novelist, The Good Thief introduces one of the most appealing young heroes in contemporary fiction and ratifies Hannah Tinti as one of our most exciting new talentsTwelve 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 Jaline s wonderful reiview of this book reminded me that I had read it when first published and before I set up my GR account Copletely agree with Jaline It has an amazing Dickensian narrative and feel to it I must read this again 5 stars. This was a book I saw Richard Russo recommend in an interview I m glad I made a note of it How can you not like a story about a smart, one handed orphan kid and his adventures with a cast of mysterious lowlifes in the 1800 s Tinti tells it well She managed to sneak in some thoughts on loyalty, commitment and morality, too The pages turned all too well, even as I was dodging fellow commuters on my walk to work. Hannah Tinti s The Good Thief well deserves and even invites comparison with classic riproaring nineteenth century adventure tales and orphan narratives With an action packed plot and a skillfully created universe, Tinti pulls her readers in to a story about stories a tale in which the tale tellers have power to create and re create the past, all the while manipulating their futures.Ren, missing a hand and a history, falls swiftly into the world of Benjamin Nab, who claims to be Ren s older b Hannah Tinti s The Good Thief well deserves and even invites comparison with classic riproaring nineteenth century adventure tales and orphan narratives With an action packed plot and a skillfully created universe, Tinti pulls her readers in to a story about stories a tale in which the tale tellers have power to create and re create the past, all the while manipulating their futures.Ren, missing a hand and a history, falls swiftly into the world of Benjamin Nab, who claims to be Ren s older brother and the key to his past Ren, a clear analogue to the orphaned boy brought up by hand type of character that dominates the novels of Dickens, Stevenson, and others, is all too eager to welcome his older brother Nab weaves a skillful tale of Ren s past, both to Ren s guardian priest, and to Ren himself, who eagerly strokes the scalped locks of his dead parents as Nab tells of their demise Quickly, though, Ren discovers Nab s identity a con man, common horse thief, and resurrectionist in need of a boy to garner his marks sympathy.Ren and Nab encounter a motley cast of characters during the course of their exploits a deaf old woman, a harelipped girl who labors in a mousetrap factory, a dwarf, and a man in a green velvet suit who s been resurrected from the dead, among others Ren s world becomes dreamlike as he watches these characters and characters from his past float into view Each character narrates their own story, and add something to Ren s own narrative of his life In the end, faced with the truth, it s the story Ren s able to create from his experiences that saves him.Though Tinti has created a compelling world for Ren, and smartly populated it with references to great adventure and intrigue novels of the past, the tale rings flat In a tale that insists stories have great meaning and power, Ren s story ultimately wields little power save that of reference to and reflection of other great stories References to David Copperfield, Kidnapped, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations do not a powerful story make The Good Thief has merits, and is a well crafted, page turning adventure tale of a type not often published today However, for ameaningful statement on the power of tales from the past to speak to our lives today, readers are best off turning to novels such as Lloyd Jones s Mister Pip, a tale that transcends mere reference to Dickens and, by being itself transformative, further illuminates the transformative power of story A recent piece in the New York Times asked whether adult women could ever read like girls fully immersed, draped over any convenient surface, oblivious to the outside world, glued to the book in hand This is a book that made me read like a girl I haven t enjoyed a book so fully since I was about 12. I can not believe that this book was even published let alone that it won an award that gained the author ten grand I think it may be the worst book I have ever read.The writing was sophomoric, if that advanced There was no character development there was no logic, and there was no context to the ridiculous and absurd story There is nothing in this tale that makes any sense whatsoever.The author has failed to create anything realistic in this story She offers details that might give the read I can not believe that this book was even published let alone that it won an award that gained the author ten grand I think it may be the worst book I have ever read.The writing was sophomoric, if that advanced There was no character development there was no logic, and there was no context to the ridiculous and absurd story There is nothing in this tale that makes any sense whatsoever.The author has failed to create anything realistic in this story She offers details that might give the reader a clue about the time period the story is set but together they don t offer anyinsight to the date the events unfold There is a wedding band inscribed with the year 1831, there is a copy of The Deerslayer which was published in 1841, there are many references to soldiers Were they fighting the civil war If so this story takes place in the 1860s, but the only reference to the war is mentioning the soldiers The author also places a street lamp on the road which would have happened after 1879.Period and politics always shape the way people think and their attitudes But the author fails to show the reader either of these There is no explanation of why church goers would be so overly eager to give their hard earned money to a maimed child in the street I didn t find anything in this story that made any sense I kept reading thinking it might take a turn for the better at some point I kept wondering how Elizabeth Gilbert, Janet Maslin and Ron Charles could say the wonderful things they said on the cover of this book I m still wondering how they could sing the praises of this book with a straight face but I m beginning to suspect why they did it Though Janet Maslin s quote with touches of Harry Potterish whimsy has to be the most bogus of them all.I like dark and I am happy to enjoy well written stories where bodies are dug up from graves, where horrible things happen to people, where some of the characters are rotten, manipulating, selfish, cheating liars All of those sound like fine ingredients to a potentially wonderful story in my opinion This however was just horrid, it went from bad to worse with the author failing to make any logical progression in this absurd story It s difficult to really describe the awfulness of this book without giving some specific details I m going to have to offer some examples, so if you don t want to have any of the many surprises spoiled for you this is where you should stop reading S P O I L E R A L E R T This is where I get specific about the horrors of this novel.I made note of many things that just didn t make any sense in this story It was almost as if the author wasn t able to create a plausible or logical explanation for events and so instead she made up things that were completely absurd Starting with the story that Benjamin tells father John at St Anthony s Why tell a story at all There isn t any need for the far fetched tale he could have just said that he wanted the boy as a companion Then they tell Mr Bowers the dentist, that Ren has a tooth ache and let him look in his mouth, why, made no sense, and was unnecessary.Ren trying to kiss the horse as they are leaving the sheep shearing field, Benjamin tells Ren to kiss him instead of the horse.Benjamin tells Ren don t let me down but the author has failed to show the reader any type of relationship between the two characters or any reason why Ren wouldn t want to let him down.Tom and Benjamin send Ren off to deal with the corrupt doctor at the hospital alone There is a big production about how the delivery of bodies will be handled and the doctor gives Ren the keys to all the gates Yet we later learn that there is a handy dandy chute for depositing dead bodies and no key is required.On their first trip to dig up bodies they are able to dig up four corpses in one night, all supposedly fresh and oh, by the way one of them just happens to be alive after all and is wearing a purple velvet suit Benjamin Tom and Ren take this man back to their place of lodging and keep him there He discloses to Ren that he is a murderer and then he goes downstairs and imprisons the landlady in a crate Benjamin comes to her aid with another absurd story and the landlady beats them all out the door with a broom And that takes you to about the half way point in the story Pretty bad and it doesn t get any better.Overall a waste of time and money not to mention the trees that were sacrificed for this horrid novel To seriously compare this to Dickens, Twain or Stevenson is like saying Taco Bell is great Mexican food Dickensian in that there are unexpected, hidden benefactors and dangerous, illegal undertakings by a young orphan but it s shallow as a dishpan, don t expect any scope or depth I found this in the new book section of my library, maybe it should have been in the teens or kids section I would say it was written to a junior high level Never could figure out what the era of the book was, one To seriously compare this to Dickens, Twain or Stevenson is like saying Taco Bell is great Mexican food Dickensian in that there are unexpected, hidden benefactors and dangerous, illegal undertakings by a young orphan but it s shallow as a dishpan, don t expect any scope or depth I found this in the new book section of my library, maybe it should have been in the teens or kids section I would say it was written to a junior high level Never could figure out what the era of the book was, one chapter had people abducted by indians, the next mentioned accounting machines I m at a loss to understand the accolades this book gathered This has lots of memorable characters and is chock full of violent and horrific plot points Ultimately, I didn t feel that the narrative held together cohesively enough for me to highly recommend the book to other readers I wanted to understand better why the main character Ren was so drawn to Dolly, the giant murderer or to Mrs Sands Why wasn t Mrs Sands dwarf brother s characterdeveloped What was the motivation behind the mousetrap girl known as Harelip s helping Benjamin and Ren This has lots of memorable characters and is chock full of violent and horrific plot points Ultimately, I didn t feel that the narrative held together cohesively enough for me to highly recommend the book to other readers I wanted to understand better why the main character Ren was so drawn to Dolly, the giant murderer or to Mrs Sands Why wasn t Mrs Sands dwarf brother s characterdeveloped What was the motivation behind the mousetrap girl known as Harelip s helping Benjamin and Ren What was the deal with the rest of the mousetrap girls and the hat boys As you can see, I kept reading because there were so many unanswered questions and memorable characters I just wanted to knowabout what motivated these characters and how it fit into the larger story Ren s coming of age from Catholic orphan to one handed thief was well done I just felt that most of the other characters weren t developed to the same level It is also highly possible that this just isn t my kind of book because of the violence and the unrelenting bleakness of the plot and setting Definitely a young adult novel, although not billed as such This is like a cross between a Charles Dickens hard luck tale and a Stephen King creepfest There s a chunk in the middle where it dwells too long on the grave robbing antics, but otherwise it s quite entertaining Worth reading just for the weird characters There s Dolly man with woman s name , the giant murderer who sleeps underneath the mattress And Mrs Sands, the very tall landlady who says everything at maximum volume, even whe Definitely a young adult novel, although not billed as such This is like a cross between a Charles Dickens hard luck tale and a Stephen King creepfest There s a chunk in the middle where it dwells too long on the grave robbing antics, but otherwise it s quite entertaining Worth reading just for the weird characters There s Dolly man with woman s name , the giant murderer who sleeps underneath the mattress And Mrs Sands, the very tall landlady who says everything at maximum volume, even when she s deathly ill And the dwarf who drops in heh heh for supper and socks I really liked Ren, the scrappy little one handed kleptomaniac orphan boy He does bad things, but he has a conscience and is always trying to make it up to people after he steals from them or hurts them.Hannah Tinti has a bizarre imagination I would read another book from her Now I want to read The Lives of the Saints just to see what people can be made to believe when it s put in a religious context


About the Author: Hannah Tinti

Hannah Tinti grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, and is co founder and editor in chief of One Story magazine Her short story collection, ANIMAL CRACKERS, has sold in sixteen countries and was a runner up for the PEN Hemingway award Her first novel, THE GOOD THIEF, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, recipient of the American Library Association s Alex Award, and winner of the Center for Fiction s First Novel Prize Hannah s new novel, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY was published in March 2017 by The Dial Press.


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