What Was Mine: A Novel

What Was Mine: A Novel

by Helen Klein Ross


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476732350
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 01/05/2016
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 291,904
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for What Was Mine includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Have you ever done something in the heat of the moment that you could not undo? Lucy Wakefield never thought she would commit a crime, but when she finds a baby alone in a shopping cart, she is overcome by long-held desire for a baby, and in one life-altering, incomprehensible decision, she kidnaps a beautiful baby girl. For over two decades, she manages to keep this secret and raise Mia as her adopted daughter. But Mia’s birthmother never gave up hope that she was alive and her unshakeable conviction eventually helps bring the secret to light. When Mia discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she’s overwhelmed by confusion and anger. Who is she? Who is her mother? And who is the woman she’s called her mother all these years?

A tale of loss and grief, identity and reflection, hope and acceptance, What Was Mine is ultimately a story about the meaning of motherhood and the ripple effect of a split-second decision that alters so many lives.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The title of the book, What Was Mine, gets at the themes of ownership and belonging. Discuss how that theme relates to the three main characters: Lucy, Marilyn, and Mia. What was theirs? What did they each lose throughout the story?

2. What is the effect of knowing from the beginning of the story that Lucy eventually gets caught?

3. In Lucy’s mind, aside from her one egregious act, she is a normal person—a good person, even. Is it possible for someone good and normal to stray so far from the path of what’s right and then simply return to it? Is it possible for a good person to do a bad thing, or are some acts so egregious as to define one as a bad person?

4. Marilyn’s character is portrayed as almost a different person before and after her daughter’s kidnapping. Discuss the ways in which she changes after going through this traumatic event.

5. “So much of who you are has to do with your mother.” Do you agree with this statement?

6. Mia and Marilyn try to forgive Lucy for what she did, but others like Tom and even Lucy’s own sister, Cheryl, are not able to. Discuss the theme of forgiveness in the story. Why do you think two of the people most directly affected are the most willing to try to forgive? Have you ever been asked to forgive someone for something you thought was unforgivable?

7. Throughout the story, Lucy’s intentions don’t always line up with her actions. Even as she was kidnapping Mia, she was in denial about what she was doing, intending to give the baby back somehow. When she then almost lost Mia in a store, she “made promises to the universe” to set things right which she wouldn’t keep. She says she meant to tell Mia when she got older. “Part of me thought that if I waited long enough, if I used just the right words, perhaps she’d be able to understand.” Do you think Lucy ever really intended to tell Mia the truth—or was she lying to herself about that, too?

8. After Mia discovers the truth about what happened to her, she has a hard time referring to either Lucy or Marilyn as “mother.” Discuss what the word mother means to you. What makes a mother a mother? Is it the person who birthed you, whose genes you share, who raised you—and what if these don’t describe the same person? How do Mia’s feelings toward each of the women who think of themselves as her mother change over the next ten months?

9. When Lucy confesses her crime to Wendy, Wendy is kind and understanding, as she has a secret of her own to confess. Why do you think Wendy’s secret makes her sympathetic to Lucy? How do you think her secret compares with Lucy’s?

10. If the kidnapping hadn’t happened, Marilyn presumably would have chosen to remain employed and Mia would have been raised by a woman who, like Lucy, works outside the home. Compare and contrast the images presented in the book of different mothering styles and decisions that led to various choices. What do these differences in styles represent for Mia?

11. Marilyn and Tom both managed to eventually move on and make new lives for themselves after the kidnapping. Cheryl wonders how Lucy could ever “restore what she took from those parents[.] She took their baby. She took their marriage. She took the life they were meant to have.” How do you think Marilyn and Tom would reconcile the regret of losing the life they were meant to have with embracing the seemingly happy lives they ended up with?

12. Does the fact that Lucy raised Mia with love excuse her actions? What does “restorative justice” mean in this case? How do you think she deserves to be punished for her crime?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Does Wendy’s cooking have you craving Chinese? Try your hand at some homemade dumplings to serve during your book club meeting (chinesefood.about.com/od/dimsumdumplings/r/jiaozi.htm)—or order takeout!

2. In California, Marilyn gets really into things like yoga, meditation, palm reading, and astrological charts. You can find lots of free astrological charts online. For an in-depth reading of your birth chart, try this one: http://www.chaosastrology.net/freeastrologyreports.cfm. How accurate do you think your chart is? Highlight some fun parts to share with your book club.

3. You can read about real kidnapping stories similar to Mia’s by searching online for the kidnappings of Carlina White and Zephany Nurse, who were both raised in other families and found their birth parents years later. How do they compare to Mia’s story?

4. Fascinated by Wendy’s story of giving up her daughter? Read more about the history of China’s one child policy by visiting http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1710568/one-child-policy.

Customer Reviews

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What Was Mine: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ColaLynn7 More than 1 year ago
I literally could not put this book down and when I had to, all I could think about was getting back to reading. The different point of views made reading this book more enjoyable. I give it 4 stars, only because I was not a fan of the abrupt ending.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
In What Was Mine Lucy Wakefield, desperate to have a baby, steals one from an Ikea. Twenty-one years later, she is finally discovered. This book is written in flash back, kind of, so at the beginning the reader knows that Lucy has been caught but then gets the story from her perspective and others – including her ex-husband, the baby’s mother, and the baby herself. This book was an easy read, and I enjoyed it, but it’s nothing amazing. I think a big part of that was that the ending was known. The interesting part of this book was hearing each character’s version of the story. I found myself sympathizing with both Lucy and the birth mother (Meredith? I want to say). Of course the true victim of the whole thing is the baby – Mia. I enjoyed reading about her reconnecting with her original family. If you like emotional family dramas, you may enjoy this one. I wanted to like it more, and there wasn’t really anything bad about it, but it just didn’t blow me away. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-what-was-mine-by-helen-klein-ross/
bumblebee23 More than 1 year ago
Lucy wants a baby but is unable to have her own. She kidnaps baby Natalie from an IKEA store in a moment of want and need! She can't resist the beautiful baby left alone in a shopping cart. I had sympathy for all and I also was annoyed by all. Told from various points of view in "snippets" the book reads very fast. The truth always comes out...but what will the consequences of that truth be?!
19269684 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year ago
Didnt care for ending too abrupt would of liked closure for this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"What are you doing here?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks i