The Stolen Child

Written by Ann Hood
Review by Jean Huets

The Stolen Child interweaves three stories told over several time periods. Nick Burns’s story begins in a trench in World War I France when a woman literally hands him her newborn son, then jumps to the 1970s when he seeks a final reckoning with his abandonment of the baby. Jenny’s story is told in the “real time” of the book, 1973, following the wreckage of her dreams and ambitions by an unwanted pregnancy. In 1939 Naples, Enzo founds his “Museum of Tears,” when a young actress who has just gotten a Hollywood contract allows him to capture her tears of joy in a glass phial. The stories converge in 1973 Europe when Nick hires Jenny to help him find the child, or at least find out what became of him.

At the beginning of the book, the quickly shifting viewpoints feel restless, almost frustrating, but as the narrative spans grow longer and Jenny settles in as protagonist, the reader also is allowed to settle into the book. Ann Hood’s zigzags through time and place are placed so skillfully that the story seems to unfold in its natural order. The settings are made vivid with just enough detail to immerse readers, but it is Jenny’s determination to wrest her life from her circumstances that wins the reader’s interest and sympathy. As she gains personal confidence to make decisions that might or might not be unwise, the thread that pulls us on is the question: will she be able to take a leap from the life she’s expected to lead into a life—an unknown life—that matches her soul’s yearning?