A compelling tale of motherhood and loss, of grief and hope, and the life-shattering effects of a single, irrevocable moment
About this book: (from the publisher) 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.
About the author: Helen Klein Ross is a poet and novelist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Lost Angeles Times, The New York Times, and in The Iowa Review, where it won the 2014 Iowa Review Award in poetry. She graduated from Cornell University and received an MFA from The New School. Helen lives with her husband in New York City and Salisbury, Connecticut.
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Women’s Fiction/Book Club
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG (exception: profanity used twice to good purpose)
Content advisory: Some sexual references, none explicit
Reminds me of: What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan
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Reflection: Some fiction is simply effortless…to read, that is. To write it takes all the effort in the world, I know. This is one case in point: What Was Mine was, for me, an effortless, enthralling read from its first, compelling premise to its gripping opening pages and all the way through to its satisfying conclusion.
Pithy chapters, taut pacing, and alternating points of view kept me speeding through the pages. (When a chapter is just a few pages long, or even less, it’s so very easy to say yes to reading one more–and then another, and just one more.) The author employs a technique I’ve not seen in a while, that of using whichever character best moves the story forward, including several one-offs. I found this refreshing, while it also serves to heighten the tension.
Part of what makes this story so fascinating is being allowed inside the kidnapper’s head. She’s a sociopath, and yet…I was made to care, even if I couldn’t condone.
The other part, and what makes it so gripping, is the point-in-time perspective from which the story is told. From the start, the reader knows the baby (or young woman, as she becomes) will be found, and her welfare is never in question. We do not know, however, exactly when she will be found, or how, or what the consequences will be. And when this unfolds, the ramifications for all characters is just as fascinating as what came before. This, to me, is the genius of this particular novel–which is helped by an ending that I found to be both realistic and unexpected.
What Was Mine is a She Reads Winter Book Club Selection. Thanks to She Reads and Gallery Books for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
See what other She Reads reviewers are saying here.
After words: Have you read a novel lately in which the main character behaves less-than-honorably…and you were made to care?