four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-The Stolen ChildIn W. B. Yeats’s 1886 poem "The Stolen Child," a fairy entices a child away from the human world. Donohue extends this theme to 1950s America, where seven-year-old Henry Day runs away from home. In the forest, he is snatched by a band of changelings, themselves once children kidnapped by fairies and now waiting to take the place of other children. Changelings (or hobgoblins) are "boys and girls stuck in time, ageless, feral as a pack of wild dogs." One of them transforms himself into an imposter Henry; Henry, in turn, becomes a hobgoblin named Aniday. In alternating chapters, both Henrys relate their adjustments to their new identities—and try to reconcile their former lives and the memories that still haunt them.
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. 336 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0385516169

Entertainment Weekly 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Magic realism plus coming-of-age yarn plus Proustian memoir. An ingenious, spirited allegory for adolescent angst, aging, the purpose of art, etc., that digs deep." Jeff Jensen

Detroit Free Press 4 of 5 Stars
"Keith Donohue manages something like an eyes-open return to childhood in his magical and powerful debut novel. … It is an unsettling and gorgeously written tale of two boys who are forced out of their childhoods too early. Their struggles to return will rend your heart." Marta Salij

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Keith Donohue’s Stolen Child, a modestly eerie novel on its way to book-club immortality, is [an] elaborate story, with a structure built on crosscutting. … Even readers who resist such schematic tactics are likely to be caught up in the fable eventually, especially since it culminates in a torrent of emotion." Janet Maslin

Newsweek 4 of 5 Stars
"a novel of great power and sadness, a fairy tale about the pain of growing up. … Donohue’s prose is so spare and unsentimental that it’s impossible not to be moved." Raina Kelley

Pittsburgh Trib-Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Part of the appeal … stems from its blurring of reality. … Donohue is masterful at evoking time and place, and the story will resonate with anyone who longs for their youth." Regis Behe

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Donohue paints a vivid picture of American life from the 1950s into the 1970s and the pressures on a boy who, in addition to not being entirely human, is growing up in the Vietnam War era, when attitudes toward sex, drugs and patriotism were undergoing a sea change. … Both sides of this story are poignant and beautifully told, a credit to the poignant and beautiful poem that inspired them." Susan Kelly

Critical Summary

Basing his debut novel on the old European myth of changelings, Keith Donohue offers a magical, heartbreaking, and beautifully written story about growing up and losing one’s childhood innocence. Critics agree that The Stolen Child could have been too precious; instead, it’s bound to be a book-group favorite. In contrasting the two Henrys—the real one an unhappy boy, the imposter a 19th-century German musical prodigy whose talent raises questions for his new family—Donohue crafts a powerful psychological drama. As the Detroit Free Press notes, "Aniday and Henry Day both try to reclaim themselves, and you will be touched and troubled by what they do."