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Cover image for The good thief : a novel
The good thief : a novel
Other title(s):
Good thief : a novel

Publication Information:
Grand Haven, MI : Brilliance Audio, ℗2009.
Physical Description:
9 audio discs (approximately 11 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Title from container.


Compact discs.

Duration: 11:00:00.
When a young man named Benjamin Nab claims to be his long-lost brother, 12-year-old Ren, an orphan, leaps at the chance for family and explanations into his past. But when Benjamin encourages Ren to join his band of grave robbers, Ren will have to choose between familial bonds and law-abiding, yet lonely solitude.
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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. 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.

Author Notes

Hannah Tinti is a writer, editor, and a teacher. She grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. She has worked at bookstores, magazines, publishing houses, and literary agencies. In 2002 She co-founded the award-winning magazine "One Story". She was Editor in Chief for 14 years and is an Executive Editor. In 2009 she received the Pen/Nora Magid Award for excellence in editing. In 2011 she joined the the Public Radio Program, "Selected Shorts" as their Literary Commentator. She is also a teacher of creative writing. She taught writing at the New York University Graduate Creative Writing program as well as Columbia University's MFA program and at the Museum of Natural History. Hannah co-founded the Sirenland Writers Conference in Italy. Hannah's short story collection, "Animal Crackers" was a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway award. Her best-selling novel "The Good Thief" is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, recipient of the American Library Association's Alex Award, winner of The Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize and winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voices Award. Her new Novel "The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley" was published in March 2017.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

William Dufris handles this book as it was intended-as a sendup of several genres. He brings to life Tinti's family of orphans, grave robbers, scam artists, drunks and assorted freaks, narrating as though telling terrifying tales to Boy Scouts around a campfire. His children are squeaky-voiced, his adults harsh and raspy. He moves easily through successions of melodramatic scenes alternately ghoulish, maudlin, violent, gothic and hokey. Adults who love high camp and young adults who savor tales of blood and gore will eat it up. A Dial hardcover. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

In this dark but rousing 19th-century picaresque about a one-handed orphan who falls in with rogues, Tinti (stories: Animal Crackers, 2004) pays homage to 19th-century biggies, particularly Twain, Dickens and Stevenson, creating a fictional world unique yet hauntingly familiar. Abandoned as a baby wearing a jacket with the initials REN sewn in the collar, 12-year-old Ren lives in St. Anthony's monastery until a man arrives and claims him as his long-lost brother. Benjamin Nab is a small-time swindler/crook of all mistrades who sees Ren's handicap as a useful conning tool. That Ren is also a natural thief, despite his devout Catholicism (he steals The Lives of the Saints), is a bonus. Soon Benjamin and his partner Tom, a former schoolteacher and erudite drunk, take Ren to grim North Umbrage, a former mining town where the only employer is a mousetrap factory run by the tyrant McGinty. Tom, Benjamin and Ren board with a stern but soft-hearted widow whose well-read dwarf brother lives on her roof, dropping through the chimney daily for his supper. The men strike a lucrative deal with a local surgeon to steal bodies, and for a while life is good. While charming, untrustworthy Benjamin (picture Johnny Depp) spins one tale after another to get his crew out of scrapes, Ren picks up pieces of Benjamin and Tom's sad true stories. Tom, who turned to crime out of guilt over his best friend's suicide, adopts Ren's twin best friends from the monastery and brings them into the band, along with Dolly, the gentle giant and hired killer who the grave robbers discover has been buried prematurely. The tale darkens after McGinty's vicious henchmen catch the thieves in the cemetery. McGinty frees the other but keeps Ren, claiming he is actually the rich man's bastard nephew whom McGinty blames for his sister's death. As more facts come out, Ren learns his true identity. Marvelously satisfying hokum, rich with sensory details, surprising twists and living, breathing characters to root for. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Ren doesn't know how he lost his hand, who his parents are, or how he arrived at St. Anthony's, a prisonlike orphanage. Certain that no one will ever adopt him, he takes secret revenge on those who beat and torment him by stealing. Then Benjamin Nab appears, claiming Ren as his long-lost younger brother. Off they go, and Ren, a marvelously plucky narrator, is ecstatic. But his savior turns out to be a con man given to diabolical and grotesque endeavors. It's a ghoulish and violent world right out of the most nihilistic fairy tales, with shades of Dickens and Deadwood. Set in a decimated nineteenth-century New England town ruled by the owner of a mousetrap factory, Tinti's shivery tale features an otherworldly cast of characters. Each is caught in a snare of some sort and must figure out how to get free. Tinti revealed her macabre sensibility in her story collection, Animal Crackers (2004). In her highly original debut novel, she renders the horrors and wonders she concocts utterly believable and rich in implication as she creates a darkly comedic and bewitching, sinister yet life-affirming tale about the eternal battle between good and evil.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2008 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

HANNAH TINTI'S first novel, "The Good Thief," opens at a Catholic orphanage in New England, where the statue of St. Anthony in the courtyard can't help the boys recover what they've lost. Ren, the book's hero, is missing not only his family but also his left hand, the skin mysteriously sewn up at the wrist. Passed over for adoption because of the lost hand, Ren begins stealing small objects as recompense. The novel is set in the mid-19th century, with Indians being fought in the West. When Ren is 11, an ex-soldier named Benjamin Nab arrives at St. Anthony's and chooses Ren from all the other boys. Nab describes to the priests a brutal Indian attack, during which his mother cut off his baby brother's hand while trying to rescue him. As proof, he produces his parents' scalps, like holy relics. Ren, who craves a family, believes it all, but Nab turns out to be a liar, a deserter and a con artist. A damaged boy who can induce pity is gold to him. They join Nab's drunken colleague, Tom, and Ren finds that their surest means of support is robbing graves. Tinti's New England is not exactly the one we know, and when the three make their way to a town called North Umbrage, things get wild and strange. Ren clings to Nab for survival, while their small band grows to include a resurrected murderer, a towering deaf landlady, a pair of unlucky twins and a dwarf who comes down a chimney at night, like a figure in a fairy tale. North Umbrage, as its name suggests, is a place of darkness and grievance. The former mining town is one enormous graveyard: the mine's entrance collapsed in an explosion, trapping the men, leaving widows whose husbands are buried beneath their feet. An opportunistic tyrant named McGinty has taken over, running a gang of enforcers called "hat boys" because they wear top hats and porkpies. He's also built a mousetrap factory and staffed it with a semi-captive labor force of unmarriageable girls. The plot is Dickensian, and so are some of the names, but the style isn't. Tinti's prose is straightforward and measured, with none of Dickens's baroque whimsy. On Ren's education at the orphanage: "It had been decided that the brothers must give the children some knowledge; at the very least enough language to read the Bible, and enough arithmetic so that the Protestants could not cheat them. Why this task of education was given to Brother Peter the boys did not know, for more often than not he would simply rest his forehead on the table before him and ignore the children completely. Much of what the boys had learned had been transferred from child to child like a disease, and mostly concerned bits of New England history: minutemen and the North Bridge, Giles Corey and Crispus Attucks." The effect of Tinti's steady, authoritative style is to make odd and extraordinary events seem natural: if she says there are hat boys and mousetrap girls, there are. And because of the seeming transparency of the narrator, we experience the world as Ren does, and feel his fear, unfiltered, when he's left alone with a wagonload of corpses and one of them sits up. Writing for adults while keeping to a child's perspective isn't easy, and Tinti makes it look effortless. AND it is a book for adults, in addition to being the kind of story that might have kept you reading all day when you were home sick from school. It's about the nature of family - Ren's band of outlaws turns out to be more sustaining than the family he longed for - but it's also about the nature of storytelling, about invention's claims on the truth. Tinti's first book, the story collection "Animal Crackers," was full of improbable circumstances in which lurked the inevitable and resonant and real. In "The Good Thief," Tinti is lavish with her storytelling gifts - which are prodigious - and hands them off to the fabulist Benjamin Nab every time he's in trouble. Ren is a bad liar, but he begins to recognize the way Nab's stories work, and finally tells one of his own, to save himself. In his wildest invention, Ren stumbles on an unexpected truth. That moment of discovery is its own argument for writing fiction, and the truth Ren uncovers provides an anchor for the book. But what matters to Tinti - as to Nab - is the boldness and dash of the story. You can't push too hard at the logic of some of the novel's events, but you wouldn't want to: they're there for the mystery, for the beauty and terror of the images, and for the way they appeal to desire in their audience. After a particularly grim answer to one of Ren's questions, Benjamin Nab asks him, "'Is that what you wanted to hear?'" "'No,'" Ren says. "'Well,'" Nab says, "'that's when you know it's the truth.'" Tinti's cast includes a resurrected murderer, a deaf landlady and a pair of unlucky twins. Maile Meloy's new collection of stories, "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It," will be published next summer.

Library Journal Review

In 19th-century New England, young Ren is glad to be rescued from the orphanage by Benjamin Nab, but is Benjamin really his brother? From the author of the popular collection Animal Crackers; reading group guide. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.