by Beth Kephart
To be published by Chronicle Books
on March 31, 2015
Source: ARC from the publisher for review
Synopsis from ARC: Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she's become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. While her father researches a 1966 flood that nearly destroyed Florence, Nadia wonders if she herself can be rescued -- or if she will disappear.My take: That first line of the synopsis -- something is not right with Nadia Cara -- is the pervasive feeling that I had while reading this book. I wasn't sure what was going on with Nadia, and the book doesn't reveal much until the very end.
This is the second book that I've read recently in which the narrative -- or perhaps the narrator -- seems a little ... off. (Bone Gap by Laura Ruby is the other.) I dislike being confused but I do like stories that challenge the unspoken assumption that we all experience the world in the same way. And reading a book is one of the best ways that we can see the world through someone else's eyes and share their unique perception of it.
"This is the apartment that does not belong to me. This is where I've come to. Florence, Italy. Santa Croce."
This is the third book I've read by Beth Kephart (Small Damages and Going Over were the others) and what they seem to me to have in common is a strong female narrator who finds herself in an unusual situation in a foreign location. Small Damages is set in Seville, Going Over in Berlin and One Thing Stolen in Florence. Kenzie in Small Damages is a pregnant teenager, Ada in Going Over is in love with a boy on the other side of the Berlin Wall and Nadia in One Thing Stolen is ... I'm not going to tell you much about Nadia, because part of the appeal of the story is allowing yourself to be immersed in Nadia's world and trying to guess a) why she's taking objects like a human magpie and b) if there really is this mysterious boy, a boy who leaves her roses.
"I hope you can forgive me."
I love the metphors in Beth Kephart's books. In Going Over, I felt as though the Berlin Wall was being used as a metaphor for the roadblocks and obstacles that all romantic relationships face. In One Thing Stolen, I found a bunch of metaphors: first, the disorienting experience of being a tourist in a foreign city mirrored Nadia's confusion. Second, the 1966 flood of the Arno River in Florence was used as a metaphor for a destruction (and painful rebirth) of a much more personal sort. And third, the metaphor of thievery. Yes, Nadia is a thief, but she's the victim of a theft as well. I don't want to say more, but if you've read this book, you'll understand.
One Thing Stolen is an unusual and moving reading experience. Nadia's story, while ultimately heartbreaking, is also a story of friendship and family and faith.