Ren has lived his whole 12 years or so at St. Anthony’s orphanage, dreaming of one day being found by his real family or adopted by kindly parents with lots of love — and good food — to spare. But every time someone comes to the orphanage to adopt a child, Ren is passed over, at least in part because of his missing left hand, lost when he was too young to remember how it happened. As heartbreaking as his plight is, it could get worse in just a few years, when he’s likely to be sold into the army. Then one day a young man comes to St. Anthony’s and takes Ren away, claiming that the boy is his brother, telling a fantastic tale of what happened to their parents — and Ren’s hand.
Ren soon finds that Benjamin Nab has many more stories to tell, none based in fact. But he is Benjamin’s new assistant in his work, which is that of a thief and con artist. Ren joins Benjamin and his partner Tom as they scrape together a living from one town to the next — and as they encounter ever more curious situations and people.
The Good Thief is a beautiful tale of a few lost souls on a roundabout path to being found, full of eccentric, almost outlandish characters (a dwarf who lives on a roof, a giant assassin come back from the dead, grave robbers and scoundrels) living in the underbelly of New England society a couple of centuries ago. It explores the power of stories and of human connection, in whatever form it takes. Hannah Tinti gracefully balances dark and light elements in a touching book whose characters deftly steal your heart.
Rated: Mild, for a few uses of mild and moderate language and some violence.