What Was Mine

What Was MineWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What Was Mine is not like any kidnapping story you have read before. Instead of seeing just one side of the story, the chapters are told from different perspectives as different characters tell parts of the story in their own words.

It begins with Lucy, a successful business woman who tried to have a baby for years. Her determined, compulsive, effort to get pregnant drives a wedge between Lucy and her husband until he finally leaves her. On her own, she begins a quest to adopt, but as a single woman she is always rejected. Then one day she sees a beautiful baby girl, left all alone in a shopping cart in an empty aisle of a large store. Without thinking, Lucy picks the child up and walks out. She justifies her act by telling herself the baby’s mother doesn’t love her or she wouldn’t have left her alone in the shopping cart.

But Marilyn, the little girl’s mother, does love her. She got a call from her office and paced while working out the problem on the phone. She’s surprised when she hangs up and realizes she’s walked away from the cart, and completely devastated when she can’t find her baby. In an echo of Lucy’s story, Marilyn’s frantic, compulsive search for her baby destroys her marriage.

The lives of these two women are changed forever by that moment in the aisle of the store, but not as much as the life of Natalie/Mia, the stolen baby. Her chapters begin when she learns the life-shattering truth during her last year of college. For 21 years she was Lucy’s daughter, Mia, an only child. Learning how to be Marilyn’s daughter and half sister to three siblings is a challenge.

Other chapters are told by Ali, Mia’s Chinese nanny, by Lucy’s sister, by Marilyn’s son, by Ali’s son, and by others. Each new character adds another layer to this complex and many faceted story.

What was Mine would be a great choice for a book discussion group. There are so many questions raised. How far would you go to be a mother? What would you do if your child was stolen? If a kidnapper turns out to be a good mother, should she be punished less? What would you do if you discovered your sister had kidnapped a child and lied about it to you for years? Could you forgive her? When a child is raised by a full time nanny, who is the real mother?

If you discovered your whole life was a lie, could you learn to forgive and move on?

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