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The Good Thief


The Good Thief Cover

ISBN13: 9780385337465
ISBN10: 0385337469
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. How do the time period and the locale shape the novel? How did the needy and the sly fare in rural America before the twentieth century? What historical aspects of The Good Thief surprised you the most?

 2. What were your impressions of Saint Anthony's? What were the motivations of Father John and the brothers who cared for Ren there? Were they cruel or simply realistic? 

3. Did you believe the story Benjamin told when he took Ren from Saint Anthony's? Would you have fallen for the scams they ran? What vulnerabilities did they prey on? What is the key to being a successful scoundrel? 

4. What did The Lives of the Saints mean to Ren before and after he left Saint Anthony's? How did his feelings about religion change throughout the novel? How did his early lessons in sin, penance, and ritual serve him in the real world? 

5. What enabled Benjamin and Tom to engage in grave robbing without feeling repulsed? Can their practical logic be justified? What is the emotional value of the possessions of the dead? 

6. In chapter fourteen, Doctor Milton lets Ren see his scarred skin under a microscope. What changes for Ren in that en- counter? How did his injury affect his life in different ways throughout the novel? How did you react when you discovered how his hand had been severed? 

7. The Harelip, Mrs. Sands, and Sister Agnes all seem powerful and skilled in different ways but don't fit traditional female archetypes of wives or mothers. How are women represented in The Good Thief ? How do these women affect Ren's story? 

8. In what ways is Ren wiser than Brom or Ichy? What makes him better prepared for life on the lam? 

9. What does Dolly teach Ren about himself and about the nature of death and darkness in the world? What effect does Ren have on Dolly? 

10. Discuss the images Ren had created of an ideal mother as someone beautiful who could provide comfort, a warm bed, and good cooking. How does Sister Agnes help him cope with the reality of his mother? Should he have been sheltered from knowing the truth? How does Mrs. Sands fulfill or not fulfill the role of mother for Ren? 

11. What is the source of McGinty's sadism and bitterness? What did it take to defeat him? 

12. Early in the novel, Benjamin and Tom discover Ren's ease with trickery and declare that he is already one of them. Did he possess these skills innately or were they the result of having to survive at Saint Anthony's? How much control over his destiny did Ren have? Did nature or nurture have the greater role in his approach to the world? 

13. Discuss the title. What makes a good thief—either in terms of being a noble thief or a skillful one? Can this be applied to the epigraph from Emerson, describing the rewards available to a good "trapper"? And how does this relate to the biblical story of the Good Thief, who was crucified with Jesus Christ on Golgotha? 

14. What innovative approaches to storytelling appear in The Good Thief

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

hilaryotoole, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by hilaryotoole)
Great read with surprisingly interesting turns. A little gory for my normal liking but it was so believable. I've recommended this book to several friends and all agree, it's a great story about a young boy who you just can't stop reading about and pulling for.
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Wendy Beckman, January 5, 2011 (view all comments by Wendy Beckman)
At first I bought this book thinking that one of my sons might like it. I kept it in my car as my "traffic jam" book -- to be read when caught in traffic jams, when waiting for the car pool, etc. Then I found myself hoping for traffic jams, eagerly eyeing the book at red lights and sitting in the driveway after I had shut the car off catching up on a few pages. I absolutely could not put the book down. I had to bring it inside and make it my #1 reading book. So many loose ends were strewn about the place that I could not imagine their being sewn up -- but I needed to trust in Tinti's sure hand. It is exciting right to the end. There were just two scenes of nudity that I thought didn't add to the story that made me think Tinti had lived in a literary world too long, given her day job as editor of an adult magazine. Otherwise, The Good Thief would be enjoyed by adults as well as children from tweens on up.
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teamsally, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by teamsally)
Think Treasure Island and Great Expectations...great new classic.
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Product Details

Tinti, Hannah
Dial Press
Scheer, Kodi
Hodgson, Antonia
Mystery & Detective - General
Historical fiction
New england
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.31 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
Young Adult » General

The Good Thief Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.50 In Stock
Product details 400 pages Dial Press - English 9780385337465 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Set in New England, presumably in the 19th century, Tinti's Disney-ready first novel (after story collection Animal Crackers) follows one-handed orphan Ren's not quite rags-to-riches tale. Ren, with his love for religion and penchant for thievery, is immediately likable, and when rugged, tall-tale spinning con man Benjamin Nab strolls into Ren's orphanage one day and claims Ren as his brother, it seems too good to be true, and it is. Benjamin, along with boozy partner-in-crime Tom, lead Ren throughout New England, using the endearing, crippled orphan to 'open doors' and make their hustling life easier. When they finally end up in North Umbrage, a town that looms large in Benjamin's past, the trio's luck dries up, and Ren must decide who he can trust and what he is willing to sacrifice in order to have this family. For a novel full of scams, shams and underhanded deals and populated by hustlers, thieves and grave robbers, the sense of menace is muted, but as an adventure yarn with YA crossover appeal, it's tough to beat." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[A] moody, twisty, and assured first novel....Tinti secures her place as one of the sharpest, slyest young American novelists. (Grade: A-)"
"Review" by , "Marvelously with sensory details, surprising twists and living, breathing characters to root for."
"Review" by , "In her highly original debut novel, [Tinti] renders the horrors and wonders she concocts utterly believable and rich in implication as she creates a darkly comedic and bewitching, sinister yet life-affirming tale about the eternal battle between good and evil."
"Review" by , "Hannah Tinti has written a lightning strike of a novel — beautiful and haunting and ever so bright. She is a 21st century Robert Louis Stevenson, an adventuress who lays bare her characters' hearts with a precision and a fearlessness that will leave you shaken." Junot Diaz, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
"Review" by , "Every once in a while — if you are very lucky — you come upon a novel so marvelous and enchanting and rare that you wish everyone in the world would read it, as well. The Good Thief is just such a book — a beautifully composed work of literary magic."
"Review" by , "[T]he reader can find plain-spoken fiction full of traditional virtues: strong plotting, pure lucidity, visceral momentum and a total absence of writerly mannerisms....Ms. Tinti has a surprising talent of her own. It will interest many."
"Review" by , "The Good Thief's characters are weird and wonderful, its setting and tale every bit as macabre as those in Tinti's short-story collection, Animal Crackers. All of that, along with its humor, ingenuity and fast pace, make The Good Thief compelling."
"Review" by , "The Good Thief instantly transports us into another time and place and creates adventure without romanticism: no mean feat. Tinti's imaginative powers, as manifested through those of her creation, Ren, reacquaint us with our own. And that's a gift to be cherished by readers of any age."
"Review" by , "Tinti is lavish with her story­telling gifts — which are prodigious....You can't push too hard at the logic of some of the novel's events, but you wouldn't want to: they're there for the mystery, for the beauty and terror of the images, and for the way they appeal to desire in their audience."
"Synopsis" by , Richly imagined, gothically spooky, and replete with the ingenious storytelling ability of a born novelist, The Good Thief introduces one of the most appealing young heroes in contemporary fiction and ratifies Tinti as an exciting new talent.
"Synopsis" by , A Dickensian cast of characters in 19th-century New England comes brilliantly to life in this wondrous debut novel about an orphaned boy and the colorful con man who claims to be his brother.
"Synopsis" by , Thrilling new historical fiction starring a scoundrel with a heart of gold and set in the darkest debtors prison in Georgian London, where people fall dead as quickly as they fall in love and no one is as they seem.
"Synopsis" by ,
For fans of Karen Russell or Hannah Tinti, a debut collection of stories inspired by science, medicine, and the power of healing with a magical twist.
"Synopsis" by , Incendiary Girls explores our baser instincts with vivid imagination and dark humor. In these stories, the body becomes strange and unfamiliar terrain, a medium for transfor­mation. In “Fundamental Laws of Nature,” a doctor considers legacy, both good and bad, when she discovers her mother has been reincarnated as a Thoroughbred mare. The infer­tile couple of “Primal Son” desperately wants a child, but when their wish is granted, the baby isnt recognizably human. In “When a Camel Breaks Your Heart,” a figure artist struggles to understand her lovers culture as he morphs, quite literally, into an exotic ani­mal. And the title story, narrated by an unorthodox angel, chronicles the remarkable life of a girl just beyond deaths reach.


In Kodi Scheers hands, empathy and attachment are illuminated by the absurdity of life. When our bodies betray us, when we begin to feel our minds slip, how much can we embrace without going insane? How much can we detach ourselves before losing our humanity? Scheers stories grapple with these questions in each throbbing, choking, heartbreaking moment.

"Synopsis" by ,
"Antonia Hodgson’s London of 1727 offers that rare achievement in historical fiction: a time and place suspensefully different from our own, yet real . . . A damn’d good read." —Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian

London, 1727. Tom Hawkins refuses to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a country parson. His preference is for wine, women, and cards. But there’s honor there too, and Tom won’t pull family strings to get himself out of debt—not even when faced with London’s notorious debtors’ prison.

The Marshalsea Gaol is a world of its own, with simple rules: Those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of its ruthless governor and his cronies. The trouble is, Tom has never been good at following rules, even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: do the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet.

Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon Tom’s choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder—or be the next to die.

A dazzling evocation of a startlingly modern era, The Devil in the Marshalsea is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.

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