|When it's mud season in Maine, I need a literary escape.|
Nadia isn't sure if she's losing her bearings or her mind in a foreign city. Words are hard to articulate and memories of the past compete with visions of the present. Is the boy with the sunlit hair real? Nadia can't resist the urge to follow Benedetto any more than she can stop herself from stealing beautiful objects. From these stolen things, she weaves artistic nests, which she hides under her bed. She doesn't want to ruin her father's sabbatical.
In this moving story, Beth Kephart gives a lyrical voice to a rare neurological disorder that robs an intelligent teenager of her ability to express herself in coherent words. The reader is taken inside a failing mind and experiences the protagonist's frustrations. The narration is fragmented like verse and integrated with avian imagery. Dialogue lacks quotation marks, and although Nadia's thoughts are intelligible, her speech is harder to understand.
"Long. High. Cool. White. Green. The nave of this church is a huge stone cage of doves and pelicans, angels and eagles. Everything carved. Everything still. The air is cool and unsunned. The wicks in the candles are burning. The pew is hard. The stone birds stretch their wings. I breathe."
For readers who need clarity and answers, be patient. In the second part, Nadia's best friend, Maggie, takes over the narrative in a lucid voice. Specialists are called to find a cure, and Maggie seeks to return the stolen objects in a reverse treasure hunt. Maggie also searches for the boy, Benedetto, but isn't sure if he's real or not. Nadia's memories sound more like dreams or poetry.
"His lips on mine are fog and birdsong. They are the smell of leather and the raw, quickening of rain. He holds my head with the palm of his hand - all that is broken and hurting."One This Stolen offers no easy solutions but still leaves the reader with hope. I'd strongly recommend this literary novel to adults and to teenagers who are interested in psychology, art, history and Italy. Kephart does a marvelous job with a difficult topic.
More reviews of Kephart's novels:
Dangerous Neighbors & Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent
You Are My Only
Undercover (includes author interview)
Reviewer's Disclosure: Beth Kephart is a blog buddy. Upon my request, I received a free galley from Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review. There has been some confusion over the release date, but I believe it was pushed to next week. The photos of Maine and Florence are mine.