Who Wins/Loses Here? What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

Posted February 9, 2016 by Jonetta in Book Review | | 6 Comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Who Wins/Loses Here? What Was Mine by Helen Klein RossWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
Published by Gallery Books on January 5, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads

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.


Icon INFURIATINGicon well writtenicon HEARTBREAKING

Lucy Wakefield finds 4-month old Natalie Featherstone unattended in a shopping cart in a superstore in suburban New Jersey. In a split second, she makes a decision that will forever change the lives of so many people.

I wanted to hate Lucy and I did. While the heat of that emotion dimmed some after getting to know her better, I never could reconcile how one woman can decide her pain means more than another woman’s. How can your desire for a child make it okay to take someone else’s baby who’s obviously cared for and loved?

This story wrecked me as we’re given extraordinary insight into the wide-ranging impact of a baby abduction, short and long term. My emotional upset only intensified once baby Natalie-now-adult Mia learns the truth. Now what? There’s not much that’s predictable here and some really important themes run rampant…motherhood, grief, forgiveness, family, loyalty, justice.

While the beginning felt a little slow paced, it subtly lays the foundation for what comes next and becomes very important. My recommendation is to just be patient because it all matters. This story is fascinating and provocative, ideal for book clubs and online group discussions. I’m encouraging my friends to read it now so I can talk about it…NOW! My only complaint is the ending…I wanted just a little bit more but I think the author got it right, despite my feelings. There are no easy resolutions in these situations.

About Helen Klein Ross

Helen’s poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, literary journals and in anthologies, including SHORT, published in 2014 by Persea Books. Her first novel, Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue, was published as an e-book in 2013 by Gallery/Simon and Schuster. Her debut novel What Was Mine, will be published in January 2016.

Helen is also the creator and editor of a poetry anthology, The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, forthcoming next year from Red Hen Press. Over 80 poets– including Frank Bidart, David Lehman and Billy Collins– wrote to titles from an 1853 compendium that provides a glimpse into habits and social aspects of nineteenth-century America.

Helen lives in New York City and Salisbury, Connecticut where she is on the board of a haven for book lovers: Scoville Memorial Library.

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6 responses to “Who Wins/Loses Here? What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

  1. Every mother’s worst nightmare, poor Mia you have to wonder how confusing it was for her. I think truffles will be required to read this one. Great review!

  2. Oh I don’t know that I could read this. The fact that things like this really happen–scare the heck out of me. However, it is oddly compelling me to pick it up. I will put it on my library list because I have to be in the right mood for this type of book. Child kidnapping is such a hard subject to tackle.

    • I didn’t think I could either, Felicia. But it’s a fascinating look at all sides of the issue. I’m glad I read it and I couldn’t put it down. Definitely something you’ve got to be in the mood to handle.