What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
ISBN: 9781476732350 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781476732367 (ebook)
ASIN: B00UDCNMZ0 (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books
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.
Lucy Wakefield had it all at one point: the perfect marriage, a great job, and a beautiful home in the suburbs. The one thing she didn’t have was a child. After several years of trying it became obvious that she simply wasn’t going to be able to have a child. After her divorce, Lucy realized that it was going to be close to impossible for her to adopt as a single mother. In a moment of sheer desperation, Lucy does something that will have repercussions for not only herself but many others in What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross.
Lucy Wakefield walks into a busy big box store one day and finds an infant all alone in a shopping cart, no parent or caregiver in sight. After years of trying to have a child and then to adopt a child, Lucy does the unthinkable, she takes the child. She then creates an elaborate backstory to cover her crime. She provides a loving and caring home for the infant she renames Mia, sending her to the best schools, providing a nanny, and much more. It isn’t until Lucy begins to work as a coauthor and goes on a book tour that her carefully crafted life of lies begins to unravel. And it all starts with a simple cell phone call that features a picture of her “adopted” daughter Mia. One minute of neglect resulted in years of anguish for Marilyn. Not only did she lose her child, but for a time, she lost her mind to grief, and then she loses her marriage. It wasn’t until she decided to leave the East Coast for California that her life began a new path. She remarries and has three beautiful children, never for one moment forgetting her firstborn. Mia’s birth mother, Marilyn, was pulled to the fictional story Baby Drive, as it is about an infant kidnapped from a store and raised by his kidnappers. When she attends the author signing and sees Mia’s picture on the coauthor’s cell phone, she contacts the authorities and requests a DNA test. The test results confirm Marilyn’s suspicions; Mia is her long lost daughter. In another act of desperation, Lucy leaves for a trip to China, unwittingly fleeing to a country without extradition agreements with the US. Can Mia and Marilyn connect as mother and daughter after all these years? Will Mia be able to forge a connection with her mother’s new family? What, if anything, will happen to Lucy as a result of her actions all those years ago?
I found What Was Mine to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Ms. Ross tells the story from various perspectives, Lucy, Mia, Marilyn, Wendy (Mia’s Chinese nanny), and others. I found the story to be quite interesting because it seems to ask the question, what makes one a mother? Mia spends a lot of time with her nanny as a young girl and even speaks a bit of Chinese and has an appreciation for authentic Chinese food as a result. Wendy, the nanny, was definitely more of a mother-figure when Mia was a child. The reader is given just enough of Lucy’s backstory to feel a bit of empathy of her pain at being unable to have a child (this empathy doesn’t excuse Lucy’s criminal action). Wendy has traveled from China to the US in order to help make a better life for her family, regrettably this means she had to leave her husband and child behind. Eventually, she returns to China and her family, but she is torn by the idea that she raised another person’s child while leaving hers behind. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this story was that as a reader I was allowed the opportunity to get to know each of the main characters and see things from their perspectives. I can recommend What Was Mine to anyone that enjoys reading a story filled with love, loss, family drama, forgiveness, and more. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Ross in the future.
Buy the Book
Available at BookDepository | Alibris
Shop Indie Bookstores