What Was Mine

What Was Mine

A Novel

Book - 2016
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"Simply told but deeply affecting, in the bestselling tradition of Alice McDermott and Tom Perrotta, this urgent novel unravels the heartrending yet unsentimental tale of a woman who kidnaps a baby in a superstore--and gets away with it for twenty-one years. Lucy Wakefield is a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It's a secret she manages to keep for over two decades--from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, coworkers, and friends. When Lucy's now-grown daughter Mia discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she is overwhelmed by confusion and anger and determines not to speak again to the mother who raised her. She reaches out to her birth mother for a tearful reunion, and Lucy is forced to flee to China to avoid prosecution. What follows is a ripple effect that alters the lives of many and challenges our understanding of the very meaning of motherhood. Author Helen Klein Ross, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, weaves a powerful story of upheaval and resilience told from the alternating perspectives of Lucy, Mia, Mia's birth mother, and others intimately involved in the kidnapping. What Was Mine is a compelling tale of motherhood and loss, of grief and hope, and the life-shattering effects of a single, irrevocable moment"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Gallery Books, 2016.
ISBN: 9781476732350
Characteristics: 323 pages ; 21 cm


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Jul 11, 2018

I enjoyed the writing, all the different perspectives and the points of view of many of the characters was well done by the Author. An enjoyable book, albeit a profoundly sad tale of kidnapping. The ending was a happy one, touching upon forgiveness and the power of healing.

EverythingTouches Jul 05, 2018

It was an interesting story, especially in the beginning. However, I didn’t feel Ross sufficiently developed Mia’s childhood mother/daughter bond. This made the situation seem overly simplistic and unrealistic when Mia learns the truth.

Oct 01, 2017

This was the book that generated the most discussion of all the books we've read in our book club. There are some real moral dilemmas in this book and it leaves you asking "what would I do" and "what do I think about what the characters did". Thought provoking.

Jan 03, 2017

I like that it was told from the point of view of everyone affected by the events in the story - including family members of the main characters. But it didn't hold my attention as well as Jodi Picoult's novels (which also address social issues from many points of view - she has spoiled me for other authors).

Oct 13, 2016

Lucy was selfish and pathetic. Her dream of having a child didn't happen, so she took advantage of another woman's tragic mistake and stole her baby.

Lucy spends the entire book justifying what she did. She acted like it was the mother's fault that she was a disgusting kidnapper.

Lucy doesn't even deserve the title of mother, she is a kidnapper, not a mother. I consider her to be a heartless monster.

Apr 06, 2016

Great book that was killed by lazy writing. Would have been as good as Gone Girl if the author had added more detail and brought the story to a good conclusion.


Mia needed to confront Lucy about kidnapping her when she was young. The story felt very incomplete without this conversation. Ending it with their reunion in the airport was a very lazy ending.

Feb 28, 2016

As a child of the 80s, I grew up kind of obsessed with kidnapping stories, beginning with Lois Duncan and Caroline B. Cooney's paranoid stories about pretty little girls who vanish. So naturally, when I came across this book on Bibliocommons (or Goodreads), I had to check it out.

The writing is simple, but fluid and Helen Klein Ross creates an amazing tapestry of characters and motivations. And, if you feel like looking a little deeper, this book will lead you to question the meaning of motherhood and the meaning of the word "mother" itself.

Just a fantastic book, I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended!

Feb 27, 2016

I just finished this book and it still has me thinking about it! I guess it's a good thing I'm still thinking about it - I was sorry to see it end; I thought it deserved "more" of an ending.
Overall, it's a good book, interesting premise and many things one would not think about in that situation.
I highly recommend reading it!!

Dec 18, 2015

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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