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What Was Mine: A Novel

What Was Mine: A Novel

4.3 18
by Helen Klein Ross

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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:


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ross crafts a surprisingly sensitive meditation on the definitions of family and motherhood around a ripped-from-the-tabloids story. Reeling from a collapsed marriage and yearning to be a mother, Lucy Wakefield is perhaps not totally in her right mind when she snatches an unattended four-month-old infant from an Ikea shopping cart. Renaming the baby Mia, Lucy raises her to adulthood without arousing suspicion from the child’s family, friends, or nanny. Twenty-one years later, though, a convoluted twist involving a bestselling novel and a few Facebook searches brings the secret to light, and Mia is confronted with the shocking truth. As Lucy flees to China to avoid prosecution, Mia travels from New York to California to meet her birth family, but for Mia, coming to terms with this information is not quite so simple as assuming her old identity, and however angry she feels at Lucy, she finds it hard to reconcile the warm, loving mother she’s known with the actions of a kidnapper. Although the process by which Mia’s abduction comes out seems unrealistic and the shifting first-person narration doesn’t fully cohere, Ross deftly creates genuinely sympathetic characters and emotionally resonant prose around what could have felt sensationalistic. (Jan.)
Abigail Thomas
“Helen Klein Ross has written a truly brilliant book. I’m obsessed by the change this book made in my thinking of what is, and what is not, forgivable.”
Claire Messud
"Helen Klein Ross--like Amity Gaige with Schroder, or Emma Donoghue with Room--takes a shocking premise and uses it to illuminate our human condition. A writer of compelling lucidity and vivid precision, she has compassion for all her characters."
Elin Hilderbrand
"Not only a terrific, spellbinding read but a fascinating meditation on the choices we make and the way we love."
Marci Nault
"Helen Klein Ross pulled me into her intimate tale of loss, love, redemption, and forgiveness that had me turning pages long into the night. You’ll fall in love with What Was Mine.”
Ann Arensberg
“In a tale ripe with opportunities for drama, Helen Klein Ross never puts a foot wrong. She lets the story tell itself, and in so doing heightens both suspense and emotional impact. Readers will be moved to understanding, but never to judgmentalism. A stellar performance, and highly recommended."
Lynn Cullen
“Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, and always riveting, What Was Mine masterfully makes you question where your sympathy should lie at every turn. I couldn’t put down this fast-paced, fascinating psychological study of motherhood."
"What Was Mine is an emotionally-grounded read...By giving readers the chance to examine what may be unforgivable, Ross brings an entirely new twist to the usual abduction story. Fans of Gillian Flynn and Maria Semple will enjoy the intensely introspective What Was Mine."
People Magazine (Best New Books Pick)
“A suspenseful, moving look at twisted maternal love and the limits of forgiveness.”
Shelf Awareness
"A powerful plot told with exactly the right approach, What Was Mine is capable of sparking plenty of discussion, whether it is over a water cooler, in a book club or simply in the reader's mind."
Fresh Fiction
"Helen Klein Ross writes with such emotion from all sides."
Library Journal
★ 12/01/2015
Lucy has a great job and a fancy apartment in New York City. Twenty-one years ago, she stole a baby from a shopping cart and has lovingly and lavishly raised the child ever since, claiming to everyone, including her daughter, that she was legally adopted. Mia is now finishing college and is very happy with Lucy as her only family. Then a coincidence, and the pervasive reach of social media allows Mia's birth mother to find her lost child, and life changes irrevocably for everyone involved. Ross's second novel (after the e-pubbed Making It) is a compelling and moving story that asks many questions about family, love, and justice. It is told from different perspectives, even if some minor characters just get a chapter or a page or two, which highlights how many people the kidnapping has affected. The ending hints at possible forgiveness and redemption. Whether Lucy deserves this or not will give book clubs much fodder for discussion. VERDICT Moving at a hard-to-put-down, breathless pace, this is suspenseful domestic fiction at its best.—Jan Marry, Williamsburg Regional Lib., VA
Kirkus Reviews
An infertile advertising executive leaves IKEA with another woman's baby and, despite "promises to the universe," keeps her. When a co-worker suggested "visualization" after Lucy Wakefield's unsuccessful fertility treatments, Lucy furnished a nursery. Her husband, suspecting she'd never move on, left her. When Lucy spots a baby slumped in an IKEA cart, she's overcome. "I can honestly say that my only intention in reaching into the cart was to right the baby. But as soon as I pressed my palms against her doughy arms, I felt a force so strong I can still feel the bind in my chest." She tells herself they'll just get some fresh air but goes home and names the child Mia. From the beginning readers know she doesn't get away with it forever. The novel is told in first-person chapters from the points of view of Lucy; Mia's biological mother, Marilyn; Mia when she's 21; and several more people—some have a cameo, others get many chapters. It's never clear who they're speaking to, which adds to the strangeness. Marilyn moves to northern California and gets into yoga and crystals; she's a little too perfectly positioned to help Mia heal from "bad energy" when she discovers the truth. Lucy sets up that discovery in a fairly unbelievable way, then escapes immediate repercussions through another unreal plot twist. All of this is consistent with the improbable premise that an otherwise successful, stable woman would help herself to a stranger's baby. But suspending disbelief when reading well-written fiction can be pleasant. Ross' prose is both readable and enjoyable, and she touches on interesting ideas about identity, family, and the malleability of the human psyche. Palatable lies that, once digested, potentially reveal some unpalatable truths, not unlike ads.

Product Details

Gallery Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Helen Klein Ross is a poet and novelist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and in The Iowa Review where it won the 2014 Iowa Review award in poetry. She graduated from Cornell University and received an MFA from The New School. Helen lives with her husband in New York City and Salisbury, CT.

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What Was Mine: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Page turner. Such a good read, but the ending was too abrupt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book. Easy to relate to at some points. Glad I read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved how the story was told from multiple points of view. Unlike other reviews, I thought the abrupt ending was appropriate, didn't leave any loose ends. Will definitely reccomend this book to anyone who asks for a good read!
19269684 9 months ago
I've read many books; I've read more this year than I can remember! I can honestly say, What Was Mine, by Helen Klein Ross, is by far the most emotional read- Ever! The story is about a woman, Lucy, who's always gotten what she wanted. The best job, a great guy turned hubby and money to do whatever she pleased. But she couldn't have a baby. Her desire for a child was so strong, it snatched a hold of her entire life. Her marriage, her free time, even a bedroom in her home. Things were looking rough... until the child of her dreams was just, one day, waiting for her! And that's where the story takes off. I guarantee, if you read this book, you will feel a great range of emotions. You will be shocked, angry, happy, saddened, and so much more and that's within the first few chapters... When I received this novel as an ARC, I happened to move and sorta forgot about it. Then I found it in my Audible.com library and thought, don't I have this? I purchased it anyway and WOW! This book was unreal. Please follow my link for the full review. *http://bit.ly/WhatWasMineNovel **Audiobook published by Simon & Schuster, listened on Audible.com.
IREAD4ME More than 1 year ago
I can not imagine this girl and what she went through when she found out that her mother had really stolen her, from another woman at a Target store, when she was just a baby. I felt sorry for the real mother who never really got her daughter back. How can you possibly recapture all those missing years? It was a sad story to me. I don't know if forgiveness would be possible. The story certainly held your interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very unhappy with the abrupt ending.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
I was not sure I could read this book. A child being kidnapped is a parent’s worst nightmare. Yet, I could not stop reading What Was Mine. It started innocently enough and then Lucy takes Mia. I had a hard time accepting Lucy’s justification. She talked herself into it being okay that she took another person’s baby just because she could not have one herself. The one thing that redeemed Lucy to me, just a little, was that she took amazing care of Mia and raised her to be a wonderful young lady. Lucy keeps Marilyn in her thoughts constantly, always thinking about the hell she must be going through in the lost of a her daughter. While the book is not easy, I could not put it down. When I had to stop reading to go on with life I continued to think about the story. I found myself sneaking and reading just one more chapter, page, or paragraph. I liked that the paragraphs were labeled with who was telling their side of the story and that the chapters were usually short and easy to read through. It was also interesting that so many people told their story. There was no part of the story left untold. I have to say the ending surprised me. I am not sure what I expected but that was not it. It is a satisfying ending, just not an expected ending. I recommend checking this book out. It is not a story for everyone but it is a story that will stay with you long after you are finished reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book, very intriguing. But, did not liked how author ended it. I couldn't believe it was finished & kept thinking there was a problem with my e-book but, nope, that's how it ended. Still a good book. Again, B&N, GET THESE KIDS OFF REVIEW PAGE!!!!! This is not Facebook.
sciencexcharm More than 1 year ago
“During Baby Bingo, one of the guests en route to the bathroom mistakenly opened the door to the nursery and soon the entire party was gathered at its threshold, faces agog, silent, and I saw myself as they did: a woman stocking up for a baby I’d never have. For the first time, I realized, as they did, as Warren had tried to convince me—I wasn’t ever going to have a baby. I just wasn’t.” One of the most devastating realities that a woman can face, has come to life in this novel. Ross’ story lays out the perfect husband and wife, right before your eyes—with one imperfection, the inability to conceive a child. Several marriages fail because both individuals thrive for what they don’t have—failure becomes a manifestation will the power of crippling the mind and tipping the hormonal balance. This story is gripping, emotional and psychologically intrepid. By delving into the minds and personalities of the characters as they live out their life, Ross engages the reader with exceptional persistence and creativity that are absolutely riveting. Lucy is a married woman who doesn’t think about consequences, not at first—until becoming pregnant. Upon revelation, she is hesitant about what is growing inside of her. She has a new career, financial instability and a thriving marriage that is not yet ready to move on to a new chapter. All of these reasons come crashing down and begin to weigh on Lucy—she feels that the time is just not right and she must make a choice. After deciding to abort the baby, Lucy understands that she will be unable to part with it if she waits until birth to give the baby up for adoption. As if Lucy willed for another way, she is overcome with emotional distraught and relief when she has a miscarriage. She prays for the baby to come back in a few years when they are ready. After years pass and various failed attempts burden both Lucy and her husband, the emotional turmoil has grown to insurmountable discomfort—a discomfort that pushes him away. Lucy becomes withdrawn, unattached, unforgiving and essentially a shell of herself—until one day in a huge furniture store, she is drawn to a four-month-old baby alone in a cart. Though this thought process is highly irrational, Lucy feels justified, suddenly thinking that this is the baby that she had prayed for—that this is the one she had asked to come back into her life. For more of this review, go to http://www.turninganotherpage.com.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received a copy of this novel from Gallery Books and Helen Klein Ross on December 16, 2015 as a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you so much for sharing your work with me! I look forward to an intense and enlightening read. Helen Klein Ross has the ability to wring out your heart. This is a tale of a stolen baby - told from the varied viewpoints of the real parents, Marilyn and Tom; the growing child,Natalie/Mia; and the baby snatcher, Lucy, and a cast of others. And even just a few chapters in, you feel empathy for all the protagonists - and can understand the heart and mind of the woman who did the unthinkable and kidnapped that baby. I never dreamed I could go there. Thanks you, Helen Klein Ross, for sharing your novel with me. It is a book I will recommend gladly.
Carolcw More than 1 year ago
Excellent! Best book I've read in a long time! Highly recommend!
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
At first I felt irate as the story unfolded and then I reached the point where I was enraged at the behavior of the main character, how she could justify her actions and ruin the lives of so many others around her and not confess her crime. Inside her head, she knew she was wrong, yet every day she rationalizes her decisions and thought of herself as a savior. She saved Mia, she saved her from a life without her natural-born parents, who had stepped away for just a few minutes so Lucy could step in and claim her. As the years pass, the lies fall off her tongue so quickly and easily, Mia’s childhood is woven with decent and fabrications from her mother. Reading Marilyn’s side of the story, I am like her and would never give up hope, searching for my daughter whom someone took from me. Marilyn life is shattered when she loses her baby in IKEA. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare and I myself, would be devastated and I can’t even imagine what I would do under these circumstances. It’s not long before Marilyn’s marriage ends and guilt consumes her. With help from a support group, Marilyn is learning to cope with her loss yet she still has illusions of seeing or hearing her daughter as her daughter is constantly on her mind. Reading both Lucy’s and Marilyn’s stories together, I wondered when their stories would collide and what the outcome will be? I feared for Mia, her life has been a sheltered disarray but I feel that how they presented themselves to her might just be the answer to her confusion. Reading both sides of the narrative, we are exposed to both sides of the story. I enjoyed reading them simultaneously as they both went down different paths and they both centered on Mia. Mia is confused when she learns the truth about her family. What is reality and where is home for her now are her biggest questions. The emotions of the characters involved are not all in sync as the story unfolds and I enjoyed that the author choose this mix of sensitivity as we see different views and these views conflict each another. The story is not one full of emotions and I was surprised by that. I did enjoy this novel as the author included many avenues and painted a full picture. This was a journey, an adventure that changed the lives of numerous individuals because of one person’s desires and selfish wants. Thank you NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This was one creepy book. I think it was even more creepy than a grisly murder book. The thoughts that the woman had while taking another woman's child. They were so real. The writing was great. I really felt like I was in that woman's head and was experiencing everything with her and with the mother that had lost her child. I kept wondering throughout the book, was this a real story? I had requested the book a while back and hadn't read the blurb right before starting to read it. The way it read, I could not tell. At first, I felt no empathy for the kidnapper at all. But my feelings changed as the book went on. I can't explain how or why. I just know that this was an excellent books that brought out a lot of mixed feelings for me at the end. I thought it was great story, well written with great characters. I took off a star because I think the ending was kind of just dropped off the cliff. It was like the word quota was met and the words "The End" was put into place. However, don't let that stop you from reading this book. It will definitely touch you as a mother. I just wish there was more there. Thanks Gallery, Pocket, Threshold and Net Galley for providing a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Walks in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"What are you doing here?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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