What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross Book Review
The lowdown from Goodreads
Publish Date January 5, 2016
Simply told but deeply affecting, in the bestselling tradition of Alice McDermott and Tom Perrotta, this urgent novel unravels the heartrending yet unsentimental tale of a woman who kidnaps a baby in a superstore and gets away with it for twenty-one years.
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.
Author Helen Klein Ross, whose work has appeared in “The New Yorker,” weaves a powerful story of upheaval and resilience told from the alternating perspectives of Lucy, Mia, Mia s birth mother, and others intimately involved in the kidnapping. “What Was Mine” is a compelling tale of motherhood and loss, of grief and hope, and the life-shattering effects of a single, irrevocable moment.
What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross Book Review
I’ve been hearing about Helen Klein Ross for what seems like forever. I’ve been told by countless people to read What Was Mine. I get it, I’m behind the times.
One Decision Can Change Everything
I picked up What Was Mine on a pool day this summer & I was immediately enthralled. Lucy makes a life-changing decision one day. She sees a baby in a shopping cart at Ikea & no one is around. Thoughts rush through her mind. Her heart tells her the baby needs someone, but there is no one there in that moment except Lucy. She makes a quick decision to take the baby & she begins to walk. She walks past the aisles, past the registers, past the exit & out to her car with the baby.
No Going Back
After a tense drive, Lucy makes it home & is immediately filled with fear. What has she done? In an instant, she stole a child that was not hers & this is where the lies start. She lies to her family, her few friends & the child. Lucy’s heart races every time she sees a police officer. Lucy freezes each time there is an unexpected knock at the door. Her impulse decision begins to affect her in many different ways. Her decision to kidnap this baby begins years of deceit, but this is also where the bond between Lucy & the baby begins. The baby, named Mia, only know Lucy as her mother. Quickly, their bond forms & Mia grows into a happy & healthy teenager.
Oh, social media. Mia finds out that all is not what it seems with her mother. Eventually, Mia finds out she was kidnapped. Helen works some real magic here. She could easily have wrapped up the story with a nice, happy ending. Instead, readers get to see more of a realistic conclusion. Later, Mia leaves to meet her biological mother. At the same time, Lucy flees the country as she is fearing prosecution. Throughout the story, Helen switches narrators between the women & this allows readers to get a better sense of the emotional distress each character is experiencing. Tears are shed, relationships are formed & tested. Mia then faces an unbelievable decision.
What Was Mine is such a wonderful read & I know why all my bookish friends are Really Into This book. It’s got so much heart & it tests the bonds of motherhood, unlike any other book I’ve read. Helen’s an incredible writer & I was Really Into This book.
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Helen is a poet and novelist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and in literary journals and anthologies. Her latest novel What Was Mine (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books) was chosen by People magazine as a “Best New Book of 2016.” She is at work on a new novel, forthcoming from Little, Brown–a saga of four generations, set in an ancestral home in Connecticut where a crime committed there in 1926 is discovered when the house is renovated in 2016.
Her first novel, Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue was published as an e-book with a digital epilogue that provides links to online content where readers can find out what happens next in the life of each character.
She is the creator and editor of a poetry anthology published by Red Hen Press in October 2016. The Traveler’s Vade Mecum is a compendium of new poems titled by old telegrams sourced from an 1853 book she discovered on Twitter. Contributors include Billy Collins, Frank Bidart and Abigail Thomas.
Helen has long been interested in digital ways to tell stories. In her former life in advertising, she was the creator of an award winning ad blog (AdBroad) and the acclaimed Twitter handle @BettyDraper. Her channeling Mad Men characters to another platform was unofficial, but recognized by AMC and earned her invitations to speak at conferences (SXSWi, Digital Hollywood, STORYWORLD) and citations in books on new media entertainment including The Art of Immersion by Wired editor Frank Rose. She is an avid speaker on 21st century storytelling. Appearances include Duke University, Columbia University and NJ Library Association.
Helen graduated from Cornell University and received an MFA from The New School. She lives with her husband in New York City and Salisbury, CT.