What Was Mine – Helen Klein Ross

“Things have always come easily to Lucy. She got good grades without really trying.  She was popular.  She made swim team.  She got a scholarship to an Ivy League college.  She got to leave home and get a glamorous job.  …  There was only one thing Lucy couldn’t do that she wanted to do: have a baby.  So she took someone else’s.”

I was lucky; I had a son very easily. I don’t understand the want for a child, or the empty feeling that comes with knowing you may never be able to have one.  I have never felt that desperation, or guilt.  So I do not understand what was going through Lucy Wakefield’s mind on that summer day when she met Mia, or as she was known to her parents then, Natalie.

Marilyn walked away from her four month old daughter in the store that day. She got a phone call and got distracted, and wandered away.  And that was something that she regretted for the rest of her life.  For 21 years she would be left wondering what happened to her daughter Natalie.  Willing herself to go back in time and not take that phone call, not take Natalie to that store.

Mia spent her whole life believing she was just that, Mia Wakefield.  Only adopted daughter of Lucy Wakefield.  The fact that she had been adopted was never a secret between the two of them.  Lucy had told her she’d been lucky because other mothers had to live with the children they were given, while she had gotten to pick Mia.

This novel follows several characters affected by that one moment on a summer day. We see the distraught parents, and how their marriage is destroyed by the disappearance of their daughter.  The woman who stole her and raised her as her own, how she managed to justify what happened in her own mind.  We even follow the live-in nanny and aunt, unaware of how the baby came into their lives; believing she was adopted from a young teen out of state.

I never thought that as a mother I would be able to sympathize, or want to forgive a kidnapper. She did a horrible thing, ripping someone’s daughter away, changing everyone’s lives forever.  But Ross lets us into Lucy’s desperation, and shows us that even though she did an evil act, she is not an evil person.  She loved her daughter with all of her heart, and did give her a good life.

What Was Mine tests you. I found myself almost rooting for Lucy to be reunited with Mia.  I know, logically, that she did a horrible thing.  But Ross does such a good job at making her a likeable character, it was hard to separate what happened at the beginning of the novel from this picture of a perfect mom trying to make up with her daughter.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that wants to tap into their feelings a little bit. But, for any parents out there, be warned that this will terrify you.  And maybe annoy your kids because you’ll be hovering over them a little bit more closely for a while.

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