By: Helen Klein Ross
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 1/5/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars Top Books of 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.
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Helen Klein Ross delivers a “stand-out” emotionally charged tale, a top must read for 2016--- WHAT WAS MINE —A character-driven, compelling exploration—a slow unraveling of lives, motherhood, a downward spiral of events affecting two families, and many lives. An abduction. A Kidnapping. I loved everything about this book! What happens in a split-second; a decision, based upon desperation, need, want, and obsession. Two women. Both professionals. A distraction. One baby. Someone loses. Someone gains. However, a thought-provoking question: For one woman: Are you prepared to live with your choices? For another woman: Can you truly get ever back What Was Mine and Lost? A baby. A daughter. Caught in the middle of two worlds. Lucy is married, a successful career in the ad world, and wants a baby. After unsuccessful attempts, infertility drugs, and years of trying, nothing seems to be working. Her husband is tired of her obsession and leaves. She wants a baby. So she tries visualizing, by setting up an entire nursery. She goes to her local IKEA NJ store and sees a baby in a cart. A four-month-old beautiful baby. It seems to be unattended. This may be a sign. A baby for her to rescue. She will pick it up just for a moment. However, the one moment turns into, walking out the door with a baby. In the car, she is overwhelmed with what she has just done. Too late to take back the baby, she falls in love. She will keep the baby for her own. She gets away with it for twenty years, changing the name, watching the news over the years, and even finding out the identity of the real mother. She keeps to herself and tells everyone she has adopted the baby. She hires a wonderful nanny from China to help take care of daughter, Mia which has a big impact on her life through adulthood. (clever tie in here) As a single professional, Lucy offers her daughter, Mia the best of art, education, and culture. She does not date or have friends—her world revolves around her daughter. The biological mother (Marilyn) is guilt ridden, having walked away from the cart on a phone call for work for a minute. Her marriage is destroyed, and she will never get over losing her daughter. Even when she moves, remarries and has another family. This story is told from the alternating perspectives of Lucy Wakefield (the woman who raises someone else's baby as her own), Mia (the former baby), Mia’s birth mother, Marilyn. Now, the juicy part (which I thought was a brilliant and clever twist by the author). Lucy is a ghost writer for a book, and wants more. She wants her name on the book with the co-author. Greed. He indeed gives her the wish which turns out to be devastating. At the book signing, I was on pins and needles--suspense, intensity. Author’s lives are not so private, especially when a thriller book is written about a baby snatching, and the real mother reads it. The biological mother reads all books about baby kidnapping, trying to find out why this happened to her. Of course, there is social media and Facebook. From this part on readers will be glued to this page-turner! All the secrets come out in the open, leaving behind a pile of devastation. We hear from different perspectives: Lucy, the biological mother, Marilyn, and later from the daughter when she is grown. A twist with China, the nanny, and the ending was perfect. I could almost see a sequel, to continue with Lucy, Mia, and Marilyn. (especially Lucy) The author does an outstanding job with keeping things neutral, allowing readers to form their own opinions. You almost feel sympathy for Lucy at times, as well as Mia, and of course Marilyn. Two different women at the end; however, early on, they were similar in many ways. How different Mia's life would have been if raised by the biological mother. What makes WHAT WAS MINE so spectacular: • Presentation/Marketing: Ross’ website. I wish every publisher/author would set up a similar page! Impressive. You become invested in the story and its characters, and ideal for book clubs and further discussions. • Q&A • What Reviews/Readers Say • About the Characters (summary of each) • Places in the Book (summary & photos) • Research Links • For Book Clubs Perfect pacing- the author does not get bogged down or take off in a different direction. Even flow keeping you glued to the pages. I could not put it down. Lots of surprises, mystery, twists, and intriguing psychological suspense. Loved the tie in with China, Wendy Ma, and the thriller book. Fans of Sarah Pekkanen, Amy Hatvany, and Patti Callahan Henry will enjoy this contemporary fiction, today's career woman, motherhood, and a "not so ordinary " baby kidnapping. When I requested WHAT WAS MINE, I had no idea what was in store. Highly recommend. An author I will be following!You can tell the author is in the media business --it shows.
About the Author
Helen is a former creative director at top ad agencies in New York who spent over 20 years in the ad business before turning to other kinds of fiction. Her stories, poems and essays have been published by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker.
Helen's newest novel, WHAT WAS MINE tells the story of an ordinary woman who takes a baby from a shopping cart and raises her as her own, managing to keep the secret for over two decades—from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, coworkers, and friends. The story starts when the secret comes out.
Helen's first book, MAKING IT: A NOVEL OF MADISON AVENUE is a coming-of-middle age story about a woman and a business (advertising.) It’s sort of like Mad Men thirty years later, from the point of view of an older, wiser, married Peggy Olson. Order here.
Speaking of Mad Men, Helen is the (unofficialized) tweeter for @BettyDraper and several other characters from the show. She’s been a social media enthusiast since 2007 when she created the award-winning blog AdBroad.
Helen is also the creator and editor of an anthology of poems with titles taken from a remarkable book printed in 1853, The Traveler's Vade Mecum. Contributors include Frank Bidart, Billy Collins, David Lehman and over 70 others, to be published in 2016 by Red Hen Press.
Helen lives and reads in New York City and Salisbury, CT where she is on the board of a haven for book lovers: Scoville Memorial Library.
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"What Was Mine is an emotionally-grounded read...By giving readers the chance to examine what may be unforgivable, Ross brings an entirely new twist to the usual abduction story. Fans of Gillian Flynn and Maria Semple will enjoy the intensely introspective What Was Mine." ---Booklist
"Ross’ prose is both readable and enjoyable, and she touches on interesting ideas about identity, family, and the malleability of the human psyche." --Kirkus
"Not only a terrific, spellbinding read but a fascinating meditation on the choices we make and the way we love."
--Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of The Rumor
"Ross crafts a surprisingly sensitive meditation on the definitions of family and motherhood around a ripped-from-the-tabloids story… Ross deftly creates genuinely sympathetic characters and emotionally resonant prose around what could have felt sensationalistic.” --Publishers Weekly
"A compelling and moving story that asks many questions about family, love, and justice… Moving at a hard-to-put-down, breathless pace, this is suspenseful fiction at its best."--
"Helen Klein Ross pulled me into her intimate tale of loss, love, redemption, and forgiveness that had me turning pages long into the night. You’ll fall in love with What Was Mine.”
--Marci Nault, author of The Lake House