Wednesday, 16 December 2015

What Was Mine

Author: Helen Klein Ross
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
First Published: January 5, 2016
First Line: "Kidnapped."

Book Description from GoodReadsSimply told but deeply affecting, in the bestselling tradition of Alice McDermott and Tom Perrotta, this urgent novel unravels the heartrending yet unsentimental tale of a woman who kidnaps a baby in a superstore—and gets away with it for twenty-one years.

Lucy Wakefield is a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It’s a secret she manages to keep for over two decades—from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, coworkers, and friends.

When Lucy’s now-grown daughter Mia discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she is overwhelmed by confusion and anger and determines not to speak again to the mother who raised her. She reaches out to her birth mother for a tearful reunion, and Lucy is forced to flee to China to avoid prosecution. What follows is a ripple effect that alters the lives of many and challenges our understanding of the very meaning of motherhood.

Author Helen Klein Ross, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, weaves a powerful story of upheaval and resilience told from the alternating perspectives of Lucy, Mia, Mia’s birth mother, and others intimately involved in the kidnapping. What Was Mine is a compelling tale of motherhood and loss, of grief and hope, and the life-shattering effects of a single, irrevocable moment.

My Review: In her new book, What Was Mine, author Helen Klein Ross brings a parental nightmare - having your child stolen from you - to the forefront in this exciting read.  And while this book had no violence to speak of, this blogging mother of three found it to be quite emotional and even creepy as it brings to light one of motherhood's biggest fears.  

At the heart of this book is emotion. Klein Ross brings up so many conflicting feelings in her characters.  Giving the story a more personal feel is the addition of numerous points of view - including Lucy, Marilyn, Mia and even very tertiary characters.  Despite of, or maybe because of, the ever-changing POVs the pace of the book (at least the first half) was quite fast, it flowed remarkably well and the addition of the other opinions gave the story a very well-rounded feel.

I will admit that I enjoyed the first half of the book a lot more.  It focuses on Lucy (the kidnapper) and how she raises Natalie/Mia on her own. The reader gets to see Lucy's rationale for taking the baby, her constant fear of being caught and ultimately her love and devotion for this girl.  Did she intend to inflict years of torment on others when she took the baby or was she filled with such an ache for a child of her own that she rationalized her actions to the point where they became her truth?  Does the fact that Lucy raises Mia in a loving home negate the fact that she stole her?  Lucy builds a new life with 'her' daughter that is built on lies and the reader knows that eventually this house of cards will come crashing down upon them all.

Even though the reader knows how things are going pan out it doesn't make the ride any less interesting.  My only negatives about the book stem from the ending (quite abrupt and not very satisfying) and the second half of the book when Lucy moves on which lacked the tension of the first half of the book.  I suppose I wanted more emotion and conflict between the parties involved.  Instead the second half of the book focuses on Lucy's new life and Marilyn and Mia's budding relationship. 

I enjoyed that emotional and ethical issues were raised and I was surprised when I found myself changing my allegiances as I read.  No one character was without fault.  There was emotion all over the place -- betrayal, loss, grief, devotion, love ... and yet the issues aren't black and white. No one comes out of this incident and its aftermath unscathed. 

The fact that certain characters didn't have the reactions I was expecting and that things aren't always cut and dry made the book have a very realistic tone.  Neither mother was perfect.  Each had her own strengths and faults. I was quite surprised at how much I liked Lucy despite her issues and her egregious mistake. I thought Marilyn would be the character I'd be drawn to but unfortunately I found her to be too over the top and cliched. 

Klein Ross gives an interesting take on a delicate and emotional situation by showing the inner thoughts of both mothers.  This was a very easy read (I read it in a little over one day) and the cover picture is beautifully chilling. There are wonderfully complex relationships that would make for amazing book club discussions (FYI - there are questions in the back of the book to get book club discussions started). 

What Was Mine is a well written book about betrayal, loss and the bond between mother and daughter.  It's about the nature vs nurture issue and the ferocity, complexity and depth of love a mother has for her child. 

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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