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The Stolen Child


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About the Author

Keith Donohue is the Director of Communications for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the grant-making arm of the National Archives in Washington, DC. Until 1998 he worked at the National Endowment for the Arts and wrote hundreds of speeches for chairmen John Frohnmayer and Jane Alexander. He has written articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers. Donohue holds a Ph.D. in English from The Catholic University of America. His dissertation on Irish writer Flann O'Brien was published as The Irish Anatomist: A Study of Flann O'Brien (Maunsel Press, 2003).


Fairy tales often reach into dark places, and this one is no exception. Inspired by a W.B. Yeats poem, it is a modern retelling of the changeling myth, in which a child is stolen away by fairies who leave one of their own in its place. In this case, seven-year-old Henry Day is the changeling; the real Henry is now called Aniday and lives in the woods with a group of other stolen-away children. We follow Henry and Aniday in alternating chapters as Henry grows up and Aniday, forever seven, does not. Henry tries to fit into his new life, but traces of his previous existence keep revealing themselves, e.g., he has a musical talent that the original Henry never had. Meanwhile, Aniday struggles to hold on to his humanity even as he forgets who he was. Despite the fantastic element, Donohue anchors the book in a mid-century America that feels specific and real. A haunting, unusual first novel, The Stolen Child is recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-Jenne Bergstrom, San Diego Cty. Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Folk legends of the changeling serve as a touchstone for Donohue's haunting debut, set vaguely in the American northeast, about the maturation of a young man troubled by questions of identity. At age seven, Henry Day is kidnapped by hobgoblins and replaced by a look-alike impostor. In alternating chapters, each Henry relates the tale of how he adjusts to his new situation. Human Henry learns to run with his hobgoblin pack, who never age but rarely seem more fey than a gang of runaway teens. Hobgoblin Henry develops his uncanny talent for mimicry into a music career and settles into an otherwise unremarkable human life. Neither Henry feels entirely comfortable with his existence, and the pathos of their losses influences all of their relationships and experiences. Inevitably, their struggles to retrieve their increasingly forgotten pasts put them on paths that intersect decades later. Donohue keeps the fantasy as understated as the emotions of his characters, while they work through their respective growing pains. The result is an impressive novel of outsiders whose feelings of alienation are more natural than supernatural. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-When Henry Day runs away at age seven, he is captured by a gang of hobgoblins, or changelings. One of them assumes his identity and takes his place in his family, and the original Henry, now called Aniday, adapts to life with ageless children who survive in the woods, awaiting their turn to change places with a human. Told in alternating voices by the impostor and the real Henry, this story shows how their lives intertwine as they come to terms with their new realities. New England in the latter half of the 20th century is not kind to creatures of the shadowy realm, and the band of changelings slowly dwindles as housing developments and industry push away the forested areas where they hide. As much as the new Henry tries to assimilate, memories of a prior life nag at him, and he comes to realize that, just as he has stolen Aniday's childhood, his own childhood was stolen away from him in 19th-century Germany. Although the coincidences in their quests stretch a little thin at times, Donohue has created a haunting picture of two lonely spirits searching for identity in the modern world. He includes just enough fantasy that readers will look a little more closely the next time they are walking through a dark stretch of forest.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Utterly absorbing . . . a luminous and thrilling novel about our humanity." --Washington Post"A wonderful, fantasy-laden debut . . . so spare and unsentimental that it's impossible not to be moved." --Newsweek "The book gains unexpected force as the plots converge... it culminates in a torrent of emotion." --The New York Times

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