Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

I once had a conversation with a coworker which ended in the conclusion that orphans are a hot commodity in literature. Starting with Dickens' Oliver Twist, through the Boxcar Children, Harry Potter, and the Baudelaires, the orphaned child automatically becomes sympathetic to the audience because of the parentless status. Orphans develop independence and responsibility much faster than normal children out of necessity. Orphans can go on all sorts of dangerous adventures and meet nefarious people because they have nobody stopping them.

The Good Thief is the story of one of these orphans. Ren is a young man with a mysterious past. He was left at St. Anthony's as a baby. He has only one hand and no memories as to how he lost the other hand. One day, a man named Benjamin Nab arrives and claims to be his long-lost brother. Benjamin gives a story about how Ren lost his hand. Benjamin takes him away from the orphanage. This turns out to be a story. Benjamin tells a lot of stories. He's a con man and gets money through the worst means possible. Ren is appalled at the actions of his new family, Benjamin and his partner in crime Tom.

Ren, Benjamin, and Tom arrive in a small former coal mining town and rent a room from Mrs. Sands. She takes good care of Ren and he becomes attached to her in return. In order to earn money, the trio set out robbing graves to sell the bodies to a nearby doctor.

One night while digging up corpses, the trio digs up Dolly. Dolly is a huge man with huge hands. He was made for killing. Ren becomes friends with Dolly. He doesn't want Dolly to kill, but Dolly was made for killing. The acquaintance with Dolly eventually leads to a run-in with the Hat Boys, a gang of men working for Mr. McGinty, who owns the large mousetrap company and basically the city. Mr. McGinty ends up holding the keys to Ren's past. It's pretty awesome how everything ends up coming together in the end.

Overall, Ren was a likable main character. He had sympathy built in, from being an orphan and from missing a limb. Further, he acted as moral compass for everyone in the book. Ren was the one who helped the sick landlady and tried to kiss the beloved mare, said the rosary over and over. I wanted things to work out for that plucky little one-handed orphan, and I'm happy that they actually did.

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