Summary and book reviews of The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief

A Novel

By Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2008,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2009,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Chapter One

The man arrived after morning prayers. Word spread quickly that someone had come, and the boys of Saint Anthony’s elbowed each other and strained to catch a glimpse as he unhitched his horse and led it to the trough for drinking. The man’s face was hard to make out, his hat pulled so far down that the brim nearly touched his nose. He tied the reins to a post and then stood there, patting the horse’s neck as it drank. The man waited, and the boys watched, and when the mare finally lifted its head, they saw the man lean forward, stroke the animal’s nose, and kiss it. Then he wiped his lips with the back of his hand, removed his hat, and made his way across the yard to the monastery.

Men often came for children. Sometimes it was for cheap labor, sometimes for a sense of doing good. The brothers of Saint Anthony’s would stand the orphans in a line, and the men would walk back and forth, inspecting. It was easy to tell what they were looking for by ...

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About This Guide
A tantalizing blend of brilliant ingenuity and spooky, gothic twists, The Good Thief tells the mesmerizing story of a child named Ren, whose past is a mystery and whose future lies in the hands of a skilled con artist. Abandoned as an infant at St. Anthony’s Orphanage, Ren was steeped in Catholic ritual and admonitions against sin. By the time he is twelve years old, several of the other boys have been adopted, but prospects are slim for Ren; he is missing his left hand, an injury experienced early on, even before he arrived at St. Anthony’s. When Benjamin Nab arrives, claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother, he transforms this mark of misfortune into a lucrative scam, whisking Ren into the world of scenic ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Scarcely thirty pages in, I realized what I suspected was true: this is the book that everyone will love this summer. Not just you, but your teenage daughter, your 12-year-old grandson, your mother or grandmother... it's hard to think of someone that won't be taken with this lovely little book. An adventure tale with a good dose of Gothic finery, The Good Thief is refreshingly old-fashioned, wonderfully strange, and darkly funny. It's suspenseful and grim, but you can still read it before bed, and its charm is quirky enough to keep it from ever becoming twee .... Unfortunately, the second half of The Good Thief doesn't quite measure up to the great promise of the first. As the plot progresses it wavers dangerously between delightful quirkiness and hokum .... All in all, The Good Thief probably won't change your life, but it will remind you of the up-all-night-with-a-flashlight novels of your childhood that, in some way, did.   (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

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Media Reviews
The Age (Australia) - Frances Atkinson

The Good Thief is derivative, undoubtedly, but Tinti has been influenced by the best - namely Dickens - and while characters such as Magwitch, Bill Sykes and Oliver Twist cast long shadows, Tinti's characters remain as fresh as newly turned earth ...... please Ms Tinti, may I have some more?

The Guardian - Catherine Taylor

Although Tinti overdoes it slightly with the Gothic extremes and Dickensian caricatures, this a confident whirl of a read, with pathos and drama nicely juxtaposed. Proper storytelling, in fact.

Publishers Weekly

[A]s an adventure yarn with YA crossover appeal, it's tough to beat.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Marvelously satisfying hokum, rich with sensory details, surprising twists and living, breathing characters to root for.

Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese

Tinti secures her place as one of the sharpest, slyest young American novelists. A-.

New York Times - Janet Maslin

[A] darkly transporting debut novel ....Ms. Tinti has a surprising talent of her own. It will interest many

Chicago Tribune - Vinnee Tong

The high jinks propel you through what is basically a story about matters of the heart (isn't that the root of all, really?). But the tug between good and evil seems slightly ill-fitting, even irrelevant, since the story's strength is its sense of fun and thrillerlike suspense.

Reader Reviews
Freshy

I hate this book with a passion
This book was assigned for us as summer reading, I am an avid reader I simply love reading and I am rather good understanding what I read according to my past English teachers. The thing is this book is overly detailed and just so drawn out I can't ...   Read More

Kathryn J Morano

A Picaresque Novel
While reading this highly entertaining book, I couln't help comparing it to the picaresque Spanish classic, Lazarillo de Tormes, about an orphaned boy brought up by a series of roguish masters who teach him how to survive on the streets through theft...   Read More

Janice

Read this book if . . .
Read this book if you enjoy descriptive settings and a cast of characters that reel you in like a fish on a hook. Once I started this book I had a hard time putting it down. I can't wait to read this with my book club because it isn't a book for ...   Read More

Janice

The Good Thief
This is a genre we don't see often in our times of dangerous and difficult travel: a picaresque novel, set in an almost mythological New England past, with a ragtag band of characters for whom a journey is just as difficult. Like all such journeys ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Resurrection Men
When we think of grave-robbing, we usually think of dark tales involving bandits pillaging graves for jewelry or other valuables. But the value of bodies in the 19th century stretched far beyond that of their adornments. Before people began donating their bodies to science, the only legal supply of cadavers in the UK for medical research and education were those of convicted murderers sentenced to death and dissection.

As medical science began to flourish in the 19th century, criminals and doctors became strange bedfellows as dead bodies were bought and sold in a morally complex quest for medical advancement. At the time, stealing a corpse was only a misdemeanor, not a felony, and body-snatchers or ...

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