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The Good Thief

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,117 Ratings  ·  1,587 Reviews
Set in the wild, seamy and extremely strange America of the nineteenth century: a historical novel so richly involving and so touching that you never want it to end.

Young Ren is missing his parents and a hand and doesn't know what happened to any of them. So he is beginning to fear that he will never be claimed from his cold New England orphanage: that his dream of a famil
Paperback, 353 pages
Published 2008 by Dial
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Aug 07, 2008 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief well deserves (and even invites) comparison with classic riproaring nineteenth-century adventure tales and orphan narratives. With an action-packed plot and a skillfully created universe, Tinti pulls her readers in to a story about stories—a tale in which the tale-tellers have power to create and re-create the past, all the while manipulating their futures.

Ren, missing a hand and a history, falls swiftly into the world of Benjamin Nab, who claims to be Ren’s older b
Jul 01, 2008 Barbara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, didnt-like
This story had such promise. From the back cover: “Bejamin Nab appears one day at the orphanage where Ren has spent the 11 years of his young life. Convincing the monks he is Ren’s long-lost brother, Benjamin sweeps the boy away into a vibrant world of adventures, filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves. But is Benjamin Nab really who he claims to be? As Ren begins to find clues to his hidden parentage, he comes to suspect that Benjamin holds the key not only to his ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Betsy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has lots of memorable characters and is chock full of violent and horrific plot points. Ultimately, I didn't feel that the narrative held together cohesively enough for me to highly recommend the book to other readers. I wanted to understand better why the main character Ren was so drawn to Dolly, the giant murderer or to Mrs. Sands. Why wasn't Mrs. Sands' dwarf brother's character more developed? What was the motivation behind the mousetrap girl known as Harelip's helping Benjamin and Ren? ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Definitely a young adult novel, although not billed as such.
This is like a cross between a Charles Dickens hard luck tale and a Stephen King creepfest. There's a chunk in the middle where it dwells too long on the grave-robbing antics, but otherwise it's quite entertaining.
Worth reading just for the weird characters. There's Dolly(man with woman's name), the giant murderer who sleeps underneath the mattress. And Mrs. Sands, the very tall landlady who says everything at maximum volume, even whe
Jul 30, 2009 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hate themselves
Don't believe anyone who tells you anything good about this book. The reviews on the back cover will be the first lies you'll have to ignore. This book belongs in a trash can. You should thank me, because I've done the hard work of reading it so you don't have to.

The Good Thief (aka, The Bad Book) is meant to be a historical fiction novel for adults that tells the coming-of-age story of a 12 year-old orphan boy who learns to live with a pair of rough and tumble thieves in early 1800s America. So
Jan 09, 2010 Barb rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can not believe that this book was even published let alone that it won an award that gained the author ten grand. I think it may be the worst book I have ever read.

The writing was sophomoric, if that advanced. There was no character development there was no logic, and there was no context to the ridiculous and absurd story. There is nothing in this tale that makes any sense whatsoever.

The author has failed to create anything realistic in this story. She offers details that might give the read
Aug 16, 2008 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2008, august
Ren had no memory of his life before St. Anthony's. The only clues to his past is the initials REN sewn into the collar of his nightshirt and his missing left hand. One day a stranger, Benjamin Nab, comes to St. Anthony's looking for him, claiming to be his older brother, and reeling off a story of high adventure that explains both how Ren lost his hand and the reason he was left at St. Anthony's. However, Ren soon discovers that Benjamin Nab is not at all who he claims to be, but instead is a s ...more
Diamond Cowboy
Jul 24, 2015 Diamond Cowboy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Good Thief was an excellent read. In it a boy of just a few weeks of age was brought to an orphanage called ST. Anthony's. Here he grew up being badly abused by the Father and dreaming of the day he would be adopted. This young man was deformed, however. His Mother had cut his hand off so it made it almost impossible for him to be adopted.
Finally he was adopted and lived a crazy dangerous life style as a thief and grave robber. I will not tell the ending but it was amazing. I recommend all
This was a random pick from the library because the cover caught my eye. I'm glad it did — Hannah Tinti's debut novel is very readable, and superior to most YA fiction, but part of its problem is that the author couldn't seem to quite decide whether this was YA or not. You will see a lot of reviewers comparing it to Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson, mainly because it's about a hard-luck orphan (missing a hand for as long as he can remember) who embarks upon a fantastic if rather dark and creep ...more
Dennis Willingham
Nov 22, 2009 Dennis Willingham rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, fiction
To seriously compare this to Dickens, Twain or Stevenson is like saying Taco Bell is great Mexican food. Dickensian in that there are unexpected, hidden benefactors and dangerous, illegal undertakings by a young orphan but it's shallow as a dishpan, don't expect any scope or depth. I found this in the new book section of my library, maybe it should have been in the teens or kids section. (I would say it was written to a junior high level) Never could figure out what the era of the book was, one ...more
Jan 06, 2009 Danaca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had read a couple of good reviews about this book but it didn't live up to my expectations. I almost abandoned it when it didn't draw me in during the first chapters. I did complete it and I did become more interested in the story as it went on. It has an assortment of colorful characters and I was rooting for the main character by the end.
Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!*
Short Review:

Bought this one at a used book store because I found the cover and description intriguing. The beginning hooked me, and for the first ~50 pages I was intrigued and had high hopes for the plot/characters. Unfortunately, it kind of lost my interest after that. It got a little too caught up in being "quirky," in my opinion, and the plot got a little strange and hard to follow. Additionally, I just found the main character bland; he just kind of existed and didn't do/say much while all
It is New England sometime in the 1800’s. St. Anthony’s monastery is a de facto orphanage for lost boys. It smells of boiled fish, and the orphaned boys who live there are lice ridden and perpetually hungry. Ren was left on the grounds there as a wee baby, found wrapped in a blanket and missing his left hand. Now a young lad of ten or so, he and his fellow orphans have been raised after a fashion by Brother Joseph, who direly portends that bad luck always follows anything that’s good, bad things ...more
Gail Harcourt-Brown
Despite all the rave reviews, I found this book to be only so-so. Hannah Tinti's prose is excellent, and she certainly paints vivid scenes and characters. However, we've seen a good many of these characters before, in other books: the innocent Oliver Twist like orphan taken in by thieves; the wiley, intelligent, and good-looking thief/con-man and his drunken sidekick; the giant with the deadly hands and the heart/mind of a child, fiercely loyal to the boy who has befriended him; the motherly inn ...more
Aug 22, 2008 Maren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that was almost oversold by the incredible praise on the cover. With comparisons to Dickens and Twain in the same breath, I was prepared to be disappointed by Hannah Tinti's debut novel, The Good Thief. However, I found that the characters and plot were compelling and she merits some of the comparison. The book feels Dickensian with it's one-handed, orphan hero, Ren who is whisked away from the monastic orphanage into a life of grave-robbing and thievery all while attempting to do ...more
Maria Thomarey
3,5 ... Πολύ τρυφερο μέσα στη σκληρότητα του
Sep 02, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-books
This Dickensian adventure story of an orphan boy who makes good by teaming up with a pair of grave robbers is a bit bleak in the telling, but more than makes up for it in the happily-ever-after ending (which is still realistic). Colorful characters enliven the 18th century setting and help the small bedraggled hero make his way in a confusing adult world. Accessible prose and a good eye for historical detail made the pages fly!
Celeste Ng
A recent piece in the New York Times asked whether adult women could ever read like girls: fully immersed, draped over any convenient surface, oblivious to the outside world, glued to the book in hand. This is a book that made me read like a girl. I haven't enjoyed a book so fully since I was about 12.
Feb 12, 2009 Schuyler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another book I was forced to read because of a book club. If I read one more review that compares Tinti to Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stevenson, I'm gonna...well, I guess I just mentioned them too. I agree with one reviewer who said that it seems that Tinti couldn't decide whether to make this a young adult or adult novel. It feels more adult than young adult, but doesn't go far enough to shed that young adult audience. It was a fairly dark book, all things considered, but remained light he ...more
Dec 28, 2010 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book I saw Richard Russo recommend in an interview. I’m glad I made a note of it. How can you not like a story about a smart, one-handed orphan kid and his adventures with a cast of mysterious lowlifes in the 1800’s? Tinti tells it well. She managed to sneak in some thoughts on loyalty, commitment and morality, too. The pages turned all too well, even as I was dodging fellow commuters on my walk to work.
The reviews on the back all compare this to books by Robert Louis Stevenson or Charles Dickens. It does have that epic adventure story feel about it, but in only 200 pages it can't quite attain the scope of, say, Great Expectations. An enjoyable book, though.
Sep 10, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tinti is a damn fine storyteller. Read it.
Ron Charles
Dec 21, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It may be too quaint to imagine there are still families reading aloud together at night (so many Web sites, so little time), but if you're out there, consider Hannah Tinti's charming first novel. Set in the dark woods of 19th-century New England, The Good Thief follows a bright, one-handed orphan through enough harrowing scrapes and turns to satisfy your inner Dickens. That Tinti is the young co-founder and editor of super-hip One Story magazine makes the arrival of this old-fashioned adventure ...more
Jan 07, 2009 karenbee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished (an ARC copy of) The Good Thief three days ago, and have been struggling with the review. Objectively I know there's nothing new here, but the writing is so up my alley and the atmosphere of the novel is so well put-together that I want to rave and rave over it.

Tinti's main character is an orphan named Ren. It's not giving too much away to say he's a minor thief, and he's adopted early on in the book by a man whose motives are unclear at first, but quickly show themselves to be "up-to
A very enjoyable, almost pseudo-fantasy, kinda-sorta YA book. I avoided reading the inside cover and just dove into the book, not knowing a thing about it. This is an orphan escapes from his parentless, loveless world and lands amongst thieves, possibly with hearts of gold but likely not, sort of book. Definitely thinner than Dickens, but almost similar in feel. The time is ambiguous, but likely ~1800's, and the place is New England. The main character, the orphan boy, is appealing, and the unfo ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Melinda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I learned nothing from this frivolous stupid story about people I didn't care about and I hate it when the end of a book is sugar-coated, dipped in chocolate, blasted with high-furctose corn syrup and dusted in sparkly confectioners' sugar all before wrapping it up in a fancy, neat little bow. YUCK!!! I can't believe this book is being marketed to adults. If it wasn't about grave robbers and drunken binges, it could be marketed as YA fiction...but even my 18 year old niece would have found this ...more
Amanda G. Stevens
Here we have one of "those" books--an intriguing premise that could have delivered more. Ren, a one-handed orphan boy, learns the art of the con from a man who may or may not hold the answers to his past--namely, what happened to his parents, and what happened to his hand? Since the con man is, well, a con man, Ren can never tell if he's being fed lies or the truth.

Based on that synopsis alone, the book should have been great. Yes, the plot inches over the top by the end, but this tale is told
Dec 30, 2008 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I found this to be a real page-turner--just had to find out what would happen next to Ren. I fully agreed with the "back-cover" reviewers who compared Tinti's work here to Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson; reminiscent of that type of thing (and a little bit so of, say, "Tom Jones" and "Tristram Shandy") but still with its own tone and viewpoint. I loved the twists and turns in this, and could really picture the various characters quite vividly. Couldn't exactly figure out the extr ...more
Mar 25, 2011 Renee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a little like Oliver Twist, but shorter, grimier, and more suited to the young adult genre (Is this a young adult book? I'm not really sure, but it felt like one and I think I would have found it more exciting if I had read it in middle school). A couple people I know loved it and recommended it, and a couple more said they didn't like it at all. I'm somewhere in the middle.

I liked Ren (the main character) a lot, with his missing hand, his talent for thievery, and his status as an
Aba Mafalba
Aug 10, 2015 Aba Mafalba rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ίσως, αν ήμουν 15 χρόνια νεότερη.
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Hannah Tinti grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, and is co-founder and editor-in-chief of One Story magazine. Her short story collection, Animal Crackers, has sold in sixteen countries and was a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway award. Her first novel, The Good Thief, is published by The Dial Press (US) and Headline (UK). The Good Thief is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, recipient of the Ame ...more
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“When death comes, she said, all that matters is this: to be next to one another. My mother was wearing a silk dress, and as she pressed her fingers into his, all of my father's adventures and hard living melted away. He knew that he had met the woman he would love until he couldn't love anymore.” 10 likes
“Is that what you wanted to hear?"
The man reached over, took hold of the lantern and blew it out. Night enveloped the barn. "Well," he said at last to the darkness between them, "that's when you know it's the truth.”
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