What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

Posted January 5, 2016 by Whitney in Review / 0 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.

What Was Mine by Helen Klein RossWhat was Mine
Author Helen Klein Ross
Publisher Gallery
Publication Date January 5, 2016
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Netgalley
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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.

First Impressions

Growing up reading the Janie Johnson series obviously left an impression on me as I gobble up any novel that has a kidnapped theme to it. Thus, the premise is what first attracted me to What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross.

Clearly, this topic has been done before, from The Face on the Milk Carton, to made for tv movies, or even real cases such as Carlina White.  I am obviously not alone in this fascination.

Impressions On Characters

While I understood a Mother’s clinginess after twenty-one years it was a little over the top for me. Marilyn’s obsession for horoscopes did get a bit tiresome. Although, it did show her personality despite being unable to see the relevance.

Lucy must be given credit. Despite being pulled in two like a wishbone, Mia showed that she had a strong head on her shoulders. I felt acted responsibly and very adult for a twenty-one-year-old. Not only did I enjoy reading of Mia’s upbringing but also coming into her own and like anyone her age discovering who she truly is.

Even though a little voice in my head kept whispering “She’s a kidnapper” I couldn’t help but like Lucy. Despite this one really big fault, she seemed like an intelligent person who would make a good first impression. Until the end I looked forward to reading her passages in the story.

Some novels with multiple narrators can become messy and incoherent. That was not the case in What Was Mine. Each point of view enhancing the other’s and flowed naturally. Although, I wish we had been able to read the story from Marilyn’s children’s perspective. I think it would have been interesting to learn how they were personally handling it. Even so, Helen Klein Ross did a good job incorporating that into the storyline.

Impressions on Plot

What sets What Was Mine apart from the others? It was a little formulaic, and I think that is hard to get away from, but what I most enjoyed was the fact that it read like a confession and we learned the inner workings of why someone would kidnap a child.

As Mia is kidnaped in 1990, before Amber Alerts and the internet, I found it very interesting how the lack of these resources improved the chances of Lucy’s disappearing act. As the book progresses technology becomes more prevalent. I liked how it was incorporated into the story and how its advancement ie Facebook is what ultimately attributed to the reunion.

I read with great ferocity straight through Helen Klein Ross’ book. It was addicting and I could not put it down despite knowing the conclusion. The character’s emotions were raw and believable, to the disgust of Lucy’s sister, the devastation felt by Marilyn the birth mother, and the betrayal of Mia, the abducted child. This more than anything is what drove me to keep reading, to learn of the character’s emotional state rather than the consequences of Lucy’s rash action.

The one downside for me was when Lucy escaped to China and she realized the jig was up. I felt like too much time was spent on her duration there and got a little repetitive.  Like guests overstaying, pages of Lucy eating noodles and texting “Let me explain” started to smell like stinky fish.

Final Impressions

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross is much more than a “grown up Face on the Milk Carton”.  Helen Klein Ross’ book is a good thriller that I would recommend to enthusiasts of this genre, not only for the subject matter but for the personality and heartbreak that jump off of the page.


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