Aug 31st, 2010 by Annie
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Deep into the night, an infant is thrust through the small swinging door cut into the wooden entry gate of Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for Boys. The infant is missing a hand and the only clue to his identity is three letters, REN, sewn in the collar of his soiled baby clothes.
The setting is 19th century New England, and during Ren’s twelve years at Saint Anthony’s he has seen boys come and go. The lucky ones were chosen for adoption: ”the boys almost fourteen, the taller ones, the loudest, the strongest,” and “the barely crawling, the stumbling two-year-olds – still untainted and fresh.” The unlucky ones, those deemed unadoptable like Ren, were conscripted into the army upon reaching a certain age. However, Ren’s luck changes, when Benjamin Nab, a con man, a ne’er-do-well, a scalawag, and a scamp, shows up at Saint Anthony’s claiming Ren as his long-lost brother. There are so many things I’m itching to say about this poignant, moving book and its cast of misfits, but I’ll hold my tongue tight and not spoil an awesome read. Pick this book up now! Read it! You’ll love it!
From the Publisher
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 talents.
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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.The Dial Press
Book Club Party Ideas for The Good Thief
Decorations are minimal 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.
America has a rich musical history and mid-to-late 19th century music was heavily influenced by Appalachian and African American folk music, and military brass bands. Two great selections from that period are The Yankee Brass Band and Stephen C. Foster’s Minstrel Songs. Both selections will get your toes to tapping.
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.”
“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
Apple Cider Martinis This drink 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.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.52 stars (3,121 reviews)|
|Amazon: 3.8 stars (168 reviews)|
|Barnes & Noble: 4 stars (85 reviews)|
|My Rating: 4.5 stars The Good Thief is sooooo my kind of novel! Just the right amount of goth and quirk!|
Book Club Discussion Questions for The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
- Sister Agnes, Mrs. Sands, and the Harelip were all women important to Ren. What role did each woman play in Ren’s life?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- In what ways was Ren better adapted to the outside world than the twins?
- Discuss the dynamic of Ren’s relationship with Dolly and what each was able to learn from the other.
Purchase The Good Thief at your favorite bookseller
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.
- 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.)
Other Works by Author and Recommended Reading
|Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti||The Deer Slayer by James Fenimore Cooper (one of Ren’s favorite books)||Great Expectations and 3 Other Great Books by Charles Dickens (more orphans in peril)||My Bright Midnight by Josh Russell (a book recommendation by Hannah Tinti)|
Hannah Tinti is also editor and co-founder of One Story. One Story is a non-profit literary magazine that features one great short story mailed to subscribers every three weeks. “Our mission is to save the short story by publishing in a friendly format that allows readers to experience each story as a stand-alone work of art and a simple form of entertainment. One Story is designed to fit into your purse or pocket, and into your life.”
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.
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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