Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

Title: What Was Mine
Author: Helen Klein Ross
Published: January 2016, Gallery B0oks
Format: ARC E-copy, 336 pages
Source: Netgalley

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.

My thoughts:  I had seen this book mentioned a few places, saw it on Netgalley and then it was selected as a She Reads 'Winter Selection' - it was destined that I read this book, and oh my goodness, was it ever a book to read. But word of caution - this book will suck you in, take you on a roller-coaster of emotions and leave you not quite sure what to think.

I loved the way this story is told - almost in a circular way. Not only do we get Lucy's point of view, but we also get Marilyn's story and Mia's, as well as some of the others that are affected by this whole ordeal. But mainly it is Lucy, Marilyn and Mia's story. This really helped put everything into perspective and allowed us, the reader, to fully understand each of the characters motivations. I loved that it was told this way. I think this really gave the story it's empathy despite the overall heartbreaking nature of the tale.

Having been through all I've personally been through, I found myself sympathizing immediately with Lucy. I know firsthand the frustration of not getting pregnant the natural way and having to go through rounds of IVF only to have that fail as well. Oh how I hated all those doctor appointments and the shots. So I can fully understand Lucy's state of mind right here...but - and it's a big BUT... I had the support system to move on. We decided enough was enough and to be happy with the life we have. Lucy, not so much! What she did was wrong, and she knows it immediately, but to keep it going...

And then there's Marilyn...she had everything going for her - the child, the marriage, the job, but couldn't seem to balance it and it was all gone in an instant. I did feel sorry for her, but I also didn't. I felt anger towards her. 

Helen Klein Ross takes an unimaginable event and turns it upside-down. This wasn't a premeditated action on Lucy's part but did she perpetuate the lie for 2 decades and then when it finally came out, due to her own fallacy, she was forced to live with the consequences. How do you even start to make amends or do you? 

This is the type of book that will definitely stay with you long after you finish reading that last page. I am so glad I picked this one up and will certainly be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Helen Klein Ross!

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross is one of the She Reads "Books of Winter" reading selection picks.

Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Fall" selections.



  1. Yes, I've got this one on my list to read. Somehow for an author to make you sympathetic with Lucy seems amazing. :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing you point of view on this story. I loved this novel and felt the author did a great job. I loved the circular way she told it.

  3. I like the idea of hearing from the main characters and how you said in a circular way. This sounds like an emotionally driven thriller, I will add to my TBR list.

  4. I can see how Lucy could be a sympathetic character and this sounds like an interesting read. I can see how it would be hard to put down and that it would stick with you.

  5. Great review. I have to read this.

  6. I just read a story that is identical to this one which happened in South Africa. It may be commoner than we think. Sad on all sides.

    1. Well, not identical, I hope. But it is one of the many stories I used to research this novel, Mystica. I provide a list of true kidnapping tales at the end of the book. I'm glad I wrote this when my kids were grown--or the research would have made me more neurotic about them being kidnapped than I already was!

  7. Love your review and linking your personal experience to one of the characters. I won't get to this one for awhile but I thought I might listen to it on audio.

  8. Thank you for this lovely review of the book, Kristin! I'm glad the story resonated for you.


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