One Thing Stolen

In a small flat in Florence, Italy, Nadia Cara is losing words, time and, quite possibly, her mind.

Beth Kephart's (Going Over) latest novel takes readers to the heart of Florence and mental illness. Nadia has come to the city with her parents and younger brother, Jack, during her father's sabbatical while he researches the 1966 flood that nearly destroyed Florence. As Jack immerses himself in the world of Italian cooking, Nadia secretly becomes a compulsive thief, stealing bits and pieces from shops and pockets that she later will transform into otherworldly, beautiful nests. Nadia's family notices her unexplained injuries and odd behavior. Even more troubling is Nadia's insistence that she has met an Italian boy with impossibly bright hair and a duffle bag always full of flowers. She knows Benedetto is real, even if no one else has seen him. Only her father's friend, a retired neurologist, has a possible explanation for Nadia's behavior.

Kephart's novel succeeds on many levels. One Thing Stolen takes the bold approach of keeping the majority of the story--all of Nadia's descent--in Nadia's perspective. Readers cannot easily determine if she is a reliable narrator, or if parts of her story may be delusions. Benedetto's appearances and disappearances add an element of mystery and the bittersweet potential of young love. Avoiding the clichés and melodrama that can plague books dealing with mental illness, Kephart instead asks readers to come along with Nadia and experience the danger and beauty of her world. --Kyla Paterno

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