WHAT WAS MINE by Helen Klein Ross


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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.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4767-3235-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2015


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