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The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti From the PublisherRichly 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 talents.

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.
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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.The Dial Press

Book Club Ideas


Set your table with wildflowers for Mrs. Sands in glass canning jars.  (Although, she may be none too happy with canning jars used in such a way!)    And, gather together a few items that represent things important to or that had an influence on Ren.

The bag of candy McGinty gave to Ren, McGinty’s gold watch, a wishing stone with a perfect white ring around it, the gray and pockmarked stone “no boy at Saint Anthony’s would have saved” and a mousetrap.

Book Club Menu

The New England setting of The Good Thief, means an inclusion of cranberries on this menu.  I dug through my recipes and found the perfect appetizer to serve:  Spicy Cranberry Relish served over cream cheese with water crackers.  My husband David does not count himself among the cranberry lovers of this world, but he goes to town on this appetizer.

Spicy Cranberry Relish with Water Crackers

“On a table beside the fireplace was a tray covered with a napkin.  Ren peeked under a corner and discovered a complete meal … sliced beef with potatoes and carrots and gravy…  And an apple.  And also a small piece of cake.”

New England Pot Roast

“The cake, the perfect slice of it, was lying on its side, just waiting for him to reach forward and stuff it into his mouth.  He could not get his teeth to work fast enough to get it down, the taste of lemon and sugar and poppy seeds melting on his tongue.”

Lemon Poppy Seed Buttermilk Cake


An Apple Cider Martini is not quite the type of cider enjoyed by Ren, Benjamen, and Tom in the novel, but I do believe Benjamin and especially Tom would appreciate this Apple Cider Martini.

Apple Cider Martini

Apple Cider Martini

Book Club Resources


  1. Sister Agnes, Mrs. Sands, and the Harelip were all women important to Ren.  What role did each woman play in Ren’s life?Discussion
  2. The orphan Ren imagined a mother beautiful, caring, and nurturing.  When Ren discovers the truth about his real mother, how did she compare to the fantasy mother he created in his mind?
  3. Benjamin undoubtedly perpetrated scams and used Ren to aid his schemes, but in spite of that, Benjamin did possess redeeming qualities.  Discuss those qualities.  Did you like Benjamin?
  4. Discuss Ren and his upbringing at St. Anthony’s.  Were the brothers of St. Anthony’s cruel to their charges?  Did they prepare the boys for live outside of St. Anthony’s?
  5. In what ways was Ren better adapted to the outside world than the twins?
  6. Discuss the dynamic of Ren’s relationship with Dolly and what each was able to learn from the other.

Purchase The Good Thief  here.

The Author

Hannah Tinti was raised in Salem Massachusetts.
In addition to The Good Thief, Hannah has published Animal Crackers, a collection of short stories.
Visit Hannah Tinti’s Website.
It is full of fascinating stuff! I browsed the site for about an hour.

My Rating:  4.5 stars  The Good Thief is sooooo my kind of novel!  Just the right amount of goth and quirk!

Awards for The Good Thief

  • The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008
  • Washington Post Best Books of 2008
  • 2008 Winner of the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize
  • Kirkus, Best Fiction of 2008 list
  • Indie Next list for September 2008
  • Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award 2009
  • The American Library Association’s Alex Award 2009 (The Alex Awards are awarded annually to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.)

Words from Ralph Waldo Emerson and the opening of The Good Thief

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

Ren's Rocks

Ren’s Rocks

I dug through the rocks that my 20 year old son collected as a little boy and found two rocks that I thought represented two of Ren’s rocks. The treasured wishing stone with the perfect white circle ring around it and the gray and pockmarked stone that no boy would ever collect but which was more precious to Ren than the wishing stone.

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  1. […] Buttery Books, a great website that combines two of my favorite things, books & food, just posted suggestions on how to throw a Good Thief-themed bookclub party, with ideas for music, decorations and recipes. They included many important objects from the book, including mousetraps, wishing stones and Ren’s candy. They even made McGinty’s watch! To see the complete menu, go here. Thanks, Buttery Books, for all the thought and care that went in to this. I know that Tom would have loved those apple cider martinis. […]

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