Thief

( 2 )

Overview

Suzanne believes she knows who she is: a former wild child, neither virgin nor virginal as a teen; someone who pulls for the wayward girls and troubled boys she now teaches in Minnesota. She has learned to survive good love and bad love and people who don’t care at all. At her rented cabin, she gathers strength, like a storm forming over the lake.

While looking for a spark in her life, a random coincidence leads Suzanne to try to unlock a harrowing event from her past. She is ...

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Thief: A Novel

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Overview

Suzanne believes she knows who she is: a former wild child, neither virgin nor virginal as a teen; someone who pulls for the wayward girls and troubled boys she now teaches in Minnesota. She has learned to survive good love and bad love and people who don’t care at all. At her rented cabin, she gathers strength, like a storm forming over the lake.

While looking for a spark in her life, a random coincidence leads Suzanne to try to unlock a harrowing event from her past. She is drawn into an unusual relationship with Alpha Breville, a convicted criminal with a disturbing history; simultaneously, she begins seeing an unpredictable, dark-haired drifter—a cowboy who’s part angel, part howling dog. Though the cowboy matches Suzanne in intensity and desire, he’s less faithful than the captive Breville.

Which man can offer Suzanne the knowledge she seeks? Which man can truly touch her? How can she find her unique peace?

In writing that has been likened to Kate Chopin’s, Maureen Gibbon constructs a taut story of desire at the other end of the Mississippi, in the north woods of Minnesota. Against deep lakes, casinos, and a bar named the Royal, Gibbon’s unconventional characters show us how to play the hands we’re dealt and own the choices we make, in a tough and tender book about hard-won redemption from one of America’s most original writers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After placing a personal ad in the local paper, Suzanne, the narrator of Gibbon's abysmal latest (after Swimming Sweet Arrow), is shocked and intrigued when she gets a response from an inmate. Having “always been interested in black sheep and underdogs,” Suzanne writes back, and, as it turns out, Alpha Breville, her prison pen-pal, is a convicted rapist, which strikes Suzanne as providential, as she was raped as a teenager. Thinking maybe she can work out some of the lingering trauma of that event, she embarks on a tempestuous relationship with Breville, first through a series of candid letters, then through visits to the prison. While at first she finds it therapeutic to figure out the other side of the rape “coin,” Suzanne must ultimately face the fact that this miscalculated experiment in self-liberation can depend on no one but herself. But what's in it for the reader is anyone's guess; Suzanne is less a character than a phoned-in grotesque thrown together to serve the requirements of an ill-considered story of petty self-enlightenment. (May)
From the Publisher
“In her relentlessly compelling new novel, Thief—which I read in a single sitting—Maureen Gibbon’s plainspoken, tough-minded heroine gives herself an unsentimental education and issues a sorrowful yet stirring declaration of independence.” —David Gates, author of Jernigan and The Wonders of the Invisible World

“Gibbon writes beautifully of the heartbreaking gulf between expectation and reality that women continue to endure, and the tragedies that await those who refuse to abide by these difficulties. It is her heroine’s refusal to be afraid, her understanding of the violence at the heart of things, her embrace of the world’s beauty, and her great conscience that save her, and inspire the reader.” —Susanna Moore, author of The Big Girls

“In an odd way this book is a female, and highly sexual, version of Thoreau’s Walden; there are some lovely bits about solitude, nature and solitude-in-nature, but Suzanne is a woman who craves and needs contact, and much of her contemplation is devoted to exploring the tangled roots of that need.  Grim but inspiring, this is a flint-tough, plainspoken novel about a flint-tough, plainspoken woman who asks no pity and gives no quarter.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

“This searing, compact novel can be read in one sitting for maximum intensity. Suzanne’s direct voice, stripped of self-pity, will draw readers in and keep them there.” —Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist

Library Journal
Suzanne leads a double life. She assumes one role when teaching English to wayward teens and another, very different guise with the men she chooses for her risky sexual encounters. While summering at an isolated cabin in northern Minnesota, she places a newspaper personal ad and receives two responses: one from incarcerated rapist Breville, the other from aimless cowboy Brill. Victim of a rape during her teen years, Suzanne begins a correspondence with Breville that starts with a series of candid, increasingly sensual letters and progresses to prison visits, then embarks on a string of random one-night stands with the erratic Brill. Through her craving for these two enigmatic men, Suzanne begins to come to terms with her own traumatic past. VERDICT In prose that is frankly sexual yet too raw to be truly erotic, Gibbon (Swimming Sweet Arrow) chronicles a damaged woman's attempt to heal herself through a series of destructive relationships. Compelling yet at times almost too uncomfortable to read, Thief will resonate with fans of Ellen Hopkins and Kathryn Harrison, as well as gritty memoirists like Kathie Dobie and Kerry Cohen.—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
In the second novel by Gibbon (Swimming Sweet Arrow, 2000), a woman who was raped as a teenager begins a correspondence-and then rather more than a correspondence-with a convicted rapist who's in prison. Suzanne is a Twin Cities teacher who works with troubled teens. Coming off the latest in a series of tempestuous relationships with flawed and slightly dangerous men, she decides to give up her apartment for the summer, retreat to a lake in northern Minnesota and regather her strength and her wits in anonymity. Lonely, she places a personal ad, and before long she embarks on an exchange of letters-at first wary, then increasingly frank-with a prisoner named Alpha Breville. As the summer wears on, she finds herself more and more embroiled, both emotionally and erotically, with this man for whom she feels a simultaneous attraction (a tricky thing to convey to the reader, but Gibbon accomplishes it) and repulsion (an easy thing to overdo, but Gibbon shows restraint). Suzanne keeps driving several hours downstate to visit Breville, wearing more and more revealing outfits to titillate him-and questioning her motives and her aims every step of the way. In the meantime, she gets involved with an unreliable, hard-drinking drifter, a howling cowboy prone to unpredictable appearances and disappearances. In an odd way this book is a female, and highly sexual, version of Thoreau's Walden; there are some lovely bits about solitude, nature and solitude-in-nature, but Suzanne is a woman who craves and needs contact, and much of her contemplation is devoted to exploring the tangled roots of that need. Grim but inspiring, this is a flint-tough, plainspoken novel about a flint-tough, plainspoken woman who asks no pity and gives no quarter.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374274542
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Maureen Gibbon

Maureen Gibbon is the author of Swimming Sweet Arrow, a novel, and Magdalena, a collection of prose poems. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has received fellowships from the Bush Foundation and Loft McKnight.

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Reading Group Guide

A provocative novel that examines the very heart of human endurance, Thief introduces readers to a heroine they will not soon forget. The target of a brutal crime at age sixteen, Suzanne has struggled with an inner turbulence for most of her adult life. Yet she defies conventional wisdom about survivors. Seeing herself as neither a shattered victim nor a vigilante, Suzanne embarks on a series of powerful but ultimately unsuccessful relationships. Then one summer she rents a cabin in the north woods of Minnesota, isolated from everything but her memories and her hunger for intensity. Through personal ads, she embarks on two liaisons. One of them begins as a gritty correspondence with a convict named Alpha Breville. The other brings her close to a drifter who is part angel, part howling dog. Through both men, Suzanne begins to probe the truth about herself—and the truth about the long-ago night that has imprisoned her, body and soul.  

The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Maureen Gibbon’s Thief. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore this unique portrait of trauma and its aftermath.

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