The Good Thief
Growing up with lousy parents is fine literary material, but growing up with no parents at all is even better, as authors ranging from Charles Dickens to J. Rowling have demonstrated. Orphans have dramatic ancestral mysteries to solve, urgent emotional needs to fill, and no one looking out for their well-being. Best of all, orphans can get into serious trouble.
The Good Thief
Hard on the poor kids; potentially fascinating for the reader. He arrived with two skimpy clues about his origins: He was wearing a nightshirt with his initials embroidered on the collar. And he was missing his left hand. One day a silver-tongued stranger, who goes by the appropriately Dickensian name of Benjamin Nab, turns up to claim Ren as his long-lost brother.
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Nab quickly draws Ren into a peripatetic life of crime, stealing horses, peddling bogus patent medicines, and digging cadavers out of country cemeteries to sell for medical research. Along the road, Ren meets and befriends a loopy doctor, a motherly landlady, a doltish murderer, and a toy-carving, roof-dwelling dwarf, oddballs who become a kind of surrogate family to the boy. The first two-thirds of the novel read like a loose-jointed picaresque adventure, each episode vivid and surreal, if not appearing to lead anywhere important.
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