Monday, October 16, 2023

Review: Stealing by Margaret Verble

As Indigenous People's Day has just passed, it is perhaps entirely fitting to share Margaret Verble's stunning novel, Stealing.

Told in chapters as letters written to whoever discovers her missing, this is the beautiful, heartbreaking story of Kit, a young half Cherokee, half white girl whose mother is dead and whose father does the best he can for his daughter. She has a large extended Native family on her mother's side, all of whom cherish her. She is a lonely child though, living way out in the country, so it's not a surprise when she befriends the nearest neighbor, a glamorous and beautiful woman named Bella, whose lifestyle causes the townspeople to look askance, thinking the worst of her. This friendship is the catalyst for a terrible crime and the reason behind the whole story.

Switching back and forth between Kit's present in a religious boarding school and the events that led her there, she innocently chronicles the hypocracy of the "Christian" adults around her, the racism and cruelty of the rural 1950s, and the terrible harm that comes when adults discount a child's word. The crime is perhaps predictable and inevitable but Verble still has some surprises in store for the reader. The writing, entirely in Kit's voice, is lovely and the structure serves the story beautifully. Kit, as a character, is wholly sympathetic, surprisingly worldly for her age in some ways, and yet sweetly naive and innocent in the ways that matter most despite her life and desires and family all being stolen from her. This is a hard and heartbreaking book, magnificently written and well worth the time spent reading it.

This novel is one of the Women's National Book Association's Great Group Reads for 2023.

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