Title: Stealing Henry
Author: Carolyn MacCullough
Publication Date: May 1, 2005
Opening Sentence: “The night Savannah brains her stepfather with the frying pan is the night she decides to leave home for good.”
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Savannah has lived a nomadic life with her mother, Alice, as they drift from town to town with seemingly little direction or purpose. But all that changes one night when their car breaks down on the side of the New Jersey turnpike and her soon-to-be stepfather, Jack, stops to help them. Seven years later, Savannah finds herself suddenly and unexpectedly once more on the road; only this time without Alice. Fleeing from Jack’s wrath, Savannah and her eight-year old half brother, Henry, head north into the territory of Alice’s childhood.
As the runaways embark upon their journey, another story begins to unfold; glimpses of Alice as a teenager, caught in poignant first live and completely unaware of all the consequences that love can carry.
I loved Stealing Henry. I’ll admit I wasn’t completely pulled in by the synopsis on the jacket. The story sort of seemed like a snoozefest and the book is rather short (just 200 pages), so I figured it would flop–and though the cover is pretty, I was absolutely judging it. Honestly, they tell you not to judge a book by its cover for a reason. Shout out to Rodrigo Corral, by the way. Woop woop!
The book description absolutely does not live up to the book itself. The book is short and fast paced but still wonderfully thorough. Savannah’s story is chock full of hard decisions, fear, hope, and the prospect of the future. Savannah is her brother’s hero though it was never stated plainly.
Savannah was a strong character, but she was also very vulnerable. I loved that Carolyn MacCullough didn’t shadow the vulnerability of Savannah’s character but also didn’t make it loud and obnoxious. We glimpsed her insecurities in the way she had trouble sleeping or habitually looked over her shoulder, surveying her surroundings. It was all very subtle and easy to pick up on without any effort. Oh, and Henry… Henry is a soft-spoken 8-year-old who will absolutely break your heart with the want to give him the world.
In addition to Savannah and Henry’s story, their mom, Alice’s, story from her teenage years is explained occasionally throughout the book. The glimpses into the past give us just enough information to understand why Alice is the way she is and what caused her to make the choices she has. Honestly I would have loved to hear more about Alice’s story. I feel like there were several things that needed to be fleshed out more. Perhaps I just liked the characters on that side of things, who knows? I really wish we could have gotten to know Noah more, because from the little bits we saw of him I started to love his character.
All in all I’m completely in love with Stealing Henry. Everything in this novel is so subtle. I found myself feeling embarrassingly emotional without really knowing why. I feel like the story and MacCullough’s writing were amazing at making me feel. This story will make your heart squeeze, and throb, and occasionally break… and it’s worth every minute.
P.S. Do you think the library will mind if they don’t see this book again? No reason. I was just… wondering, you know? *shifty eyes*