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BookBrowse Reviews Stealing by Margaret Verble

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Stealing by Margaret Verble

Stealing

A Novel

by Margaret Verble
  • Critics' Opinion:
  • Readers' Opinion:
  • First Published:
  • Feb 7, 2023
  • Paperback:
  • Feb 2024
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About This Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Pulitzer Prize finalist Margaret Verble explores the legacy of the forced removal of Native American children from their families

Margaret Verble is the author of several previous novels, including Maud's Line, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky, which was the subject of a BookBrowse book club discussion in 2021. Our First Impressions reviewers gave Stealing a high average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.

What the book is about:

Margaret Verble, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has written a gut-wrenching novel that explores the ugly side of Native American Boarding Schools in the 1950s (Emily C). Kit Crockett, a half-Cherokee child, is an outsider in her community. She forms a friendship with an adult but when the pair are accused of improper behavior she's removed from her father's care and placed in a boarding school as a ward of the state. At the institution she and the other students are punished for speaking their native language, banned from acting in any way that might be seen to represent traditional or cultural practices, and stripped of traditional clothing, hair, and other personal belongings–anything that links them to their heritage. The novel is written from the perspective of Kit, still a child but looking back on her early years; in reviewing a journal that she kept while at the school, Kit discovers truths about her life that even she had forgotten. Using this journal, Kit sees her life as a jigsaw puzzle which she uses to figure out how and why she eventually found herself in this boarding school. As each piece of her personal puzzle slides into place, she realizes that her life, her family relationships, and her emotional, cultural, and spiritual being have been stolen from her along the way (Emily C).

First Impressions reviewers found it relevant to current affairs:

This book is eye-opening (Jennifer H). It sheds light on yet one more of the many ongoing trials Native Americans have endured throughout the years (Elise B). Although Verble completed most of Stealing over a decade ago, its publication couldn't be more timely, with the ongoing revelations of the horrors inflicted on indigenous children in boarding school systems in the headlines (Laurie S).

Many found the book's young narrator compelling:

The author's use of Kit as the narrator is powerful. The many truisms that she voices along her journey are rich with insight. She faces the numerous tragedies in her life with guts, patience and determination (Mary M). The author authentically captures the voice and perspective of her child narrator, a character that reminded me of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird (Karen B).

Readers also commented on the many themes explored in the novel:

This fascinating novel has a lot to say about morals, ethics, prejudice, religious hypocrisy and more (Sylvia G). It's an excellent story on the importance of family and the effects of religion on a child (Mary A). Stealing is a key theme as Kit reveals the many things that have been taken from her: her heart, her soul, her culture, and her family - and she steals a piece of the reader's heart during the telling.

Some felt the book had its flaws:

The "Trail of Tears" is referenced but the narrative regarding this event isn't explored. Also, expanding on the Christianization of native Americans, in particular the Cherokee, may have enhanced the human element of the story (William D). The book's chapters often weave back and forth, and the transitions feel awkward at times. The plot's resolution doesn't seem to do ample justice to the telling of this black mark on America's child welfare system (Maribeth R). My only gripe is I would have like an ending that was more concrete (Jennifer H).

Most reviewers, however, found the story memorable:

WOW. If you have any heart at all, this book will break it into a million pieces…There were times I was so moved by her horrific life that I actually had to pause to take a breath (Sheila B). I was drawn in from the very first page (Donna W). It's a wonderful read with an extremely sympathetic heroine. Loved it (Sylvia G). It is one of the best books I have read in the past year (Cynthia D). Verble is an amazing weaver of stories and embodies the thinking, feeling and language of a sensitive, intelligent girl (Darrell W). One of my favorite books in a long time. I am bringing it to my book club next month. I think they will love it (Sally D).

Reviewers recommend Stealing to a broad audience:

If you relish reading atmospheric tales set near the Bayou, and if you love hearing the voice of a thoughtful and precocious child, you will enjoy reading Margaret Verble's latest novel, Stealing (Maribeth R). This is easily one of the best books I have read all year…For those who liked Where the Crawdads Sing and To Kill a Mockingbird, do not miss this one! (Jennifer H). I would recommend Stealing to fans of This Tender Land or The Nickel Boys (Karen B). I would recommend this novel to advanced YA readers…and those interested in remembering how family and community life in the middle of our last century was for many of us (Stephen). This is a book for people who like an unreliable narrator (my favorite kind) and a gritty, believable story (Sheila B).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in March 2023, and has been updated for the March 2024 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Read-Alikes

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