SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 28, 2014

Column: Salem reads together

This summer, from Aug. 21 to 24, the city of Salem is hosting a Community Read. Salem’s book of choice is Hannah Tinti’s “The Good Thief.” Copies of the book will be distributed free of charge at the Salem Partnership table at the Education Day festivities on May 10, and all interested parties can receive one copy per household. According to the author, “‘The Good Thief’ is a coming-of-age story, but it is also about redemption and second chances. Throughout the novel, different characters try to right past wrongs. ‘The Good Thief’ was written for adults, but the book has also crossed over and become a favorite for high school and junior high students.”

The story opens in the 1800s, in a New England orphanage operated by a monastery that also dabbles in winemaking. Our hero, a 12-year-old boy named Ren, lives in fear of being enlisted in military service when he comes of age, as his mysterious lack of a left hand has prevented him from being adopted. According to author Hannah Tinti, “How he lost his hand is a mystery that Ren spends the book trying to unravel — crossing paths with scam artists, petty thieves and grave robbers as he seeks his place in the world.” Ren’s life is turned upside down when a man appears claiming to be his brother and promises to give Ren the home he has been longing for his whole life. However, this man is not who he claims to be. This story takes the best elements of “Oliver Twist” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and presents them with an accessible voice that appeals to people of all ages.

Hannah Tinti grew up in Salem, and “The Good Thief” was partly inspired by her roots.

“Because I grew up in Salem, stepping into the time period of ‘The Good Thief was easy,” Tinti said. “Many of the houses in Salem were built in the 1700s and 1800s, and whenever my family planted our backyard garden, we would dig up things from the past — fragments of blue and white china plates or broken clay pipes. Once, my grandmother found a Spanish Reale from the 1700s.”

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