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The Good Thief

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  7,257 ratings  ·  1,491 reviews
Richly imagined, gothically spooky, and replete with the ingenious storytelling ability of a born novelist, The Good Thief introduces one of the most appealing young heroes in contemporary fiction and ratifies Hannah Tinti as one of our most exciting new talents.

Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve fo
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Published August 26th 2008 by The Dial Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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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
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
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 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
Tinti is a damn fine storyteller. Read it.
Ron Charles
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
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
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
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
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
Banafsheh Serov
Set in New England in the 19th century, ‘The Good Thief’ is the story of a twelve year old, one-handed orphan, Ren.
Ren has been an orphan at the Saint Anthony’s Monastery as long as he remembers. His parentage and his missing hand had always remained a mystery which Ren struggled to solve. He dreamt of a day that he would one day be part of a loving family.
Ren’s dreams appeared to have come truewith the arrival of a stranger, Benjamin Nab who claims to be his older brother but turns out to be a
Richly imagined, gothically spooky, and replete with the ingenious storytelling ability of a born novelist, The Good Thief introduces one of the most appealing young heroes in contemporary fiction and ratifies Hannah Tinti as one of our most exciting new talents. Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve for his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boy ...more
Paul Pessolano
If you are looking for something different to read that has everything in it that you could possibly want, pick up this book.

A young boy named Ren is left at a monastery as a baby. He is missing one of his hands and finds that he is not suitable for adoption. Well, that is until a man by the name of Benjamin comes to the monastery and claims him as his brother.

Benjamin takes him frokm the monastery and immediately introduces him to the world of liars and thieves. Benjamin and his partner, Tom, m
I was pleasantly surprised by this gothic story about a one-handed boy named Ren, who is raised in a Catholic orphanage and adopted by a con artist mere months before his caretakers planned to consign him to the army. Although the monks question why anyone would want to adopt a boy with only one hand, Ren’s savior, Benjamin Nab, weaves a convincing tale about Ren being his long lost brother who lost his hand when their family was attacked by indians. Benjamin saved him and placed the infant at t ...more
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Did anyone else have trouble liking this book? 11 38 Apr 04, 2014 05:23PM  
Interview with Hannah Tinti, Author of "The Good Thief" 2 39 Oct 24, 2012 06:24PM  
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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.” 8 likes
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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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