Maureen Gibbon: Thief (2010)

Maureen Gibbon’s novel Thief is a powerful account of a young woman who has been raped as a teenager and now, in her thirties, is still trying to come to terms with this event. The life she is leading is like a walk on a tightrope. One dangerous boyfriend follows the next and even as a very young teenager she already led a promiscuous and risk-taking life.

At the beginning of the novel, she has left the Twin Cities and rented a lonely cabin near a lake. A bit too lonely maybe or she wouldn’t place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a “Great kisser, good listener”. One of the men who answers her ad, is Alpha Breville, an inmate in a state penitentiary. She writes and finds out that he was convicted because he raped a woman seven years ago.

What is it that makes her write back and go and visit this man week after week? She thinks it is because she is looking for closure and he will help her with this. Or is it once more her addiction to danger, sex and romance? It’s a little bit of everything, as we come to understand. But while Alpha sits behind bars, she still sees other men. One of them a cowboy who reveals to be as dysfunctional as all the others she has left before.

This is a highly disturbing book. Disturbing, honest and intriguing. I was very captivated and found it believable. I used to read a lot of psychology books and some of them were dedicated to addictions. The portrayal of a self-destructive, promiscuous woman who acts out via sex and romance was realistic for me. After I finished it, I noticed, how numbed Suzanne is, she is very self-destructive, seeks out men who have the potential to harm her, falls in love as soon as she had sex with a man, even a complete stranger, but she remains unemotional. The most important thing for her is, as soon as something is over, to find someone new.

The big question at the heart of the story is whether the rape victim and the rapist can heal each other and whether she brought the rape upon herself. This last question was particularly disturbing.

Maureen Gibbon has been raped as a young girl, just like Alice Sebold, the author of The Lovely Bones. The difference in their approach is interesting. I didn’t like The Lovely Bones but I liked Thief.

It’s a book that would be ideal for an open-minded discussion group or book club. Open minded because it asks uncomfortable questions about rapists and their victims and also because there is some very explicit sexual content. It’s not gratuitous as one of the topics is sexual addiction but I felt I needed to say it.

22 thoughts on “Maureen Gibbon: Thief (2010)

  1. This does sound like an interesting book. The only problem being that I loved the Lovely Bones! I’ll keep an eye out for this one as I do like books that tackle difficult questions.

    • It’s not really a problem that you liked The Lovely Bones. They are very different, just unfortunately both authors had the extreme misfortune of going through something this horrible. The POV and apparoach is very different. I don’t know why The Lovely Bones didn’t work for me. I would be extremely curious to read what you think of this. It’s a book you want to discuss.

  2. Interesting that she would correspond with someone who committed a crime that she was a victim of–it sounds a little terrifying though if she is trying to find answers I guess there would be no one better to give them than someone who has been a perpetrator. It sounds like a potentially difficult sort of read but I’m intrigued as well–definitely a good discussion book!

    • I didn’t find it such a difficult read but, I haven’t gone through anything like this. I have two good friends who have bee raped and what is even more surprsing, both of them twice. And they both blame themsleves for it. That was the part that got to me the most.
      To a certain extent the perpetrator gives her answers but… I can’t reveal too much.

  3. I think I would have to read this one to see if it would work for me. It does sound disturbing and I’m not sure how I would react to it. It is an interesting approach to the subject.

    • I would have liked to be able to discuss it with someone. It has so many aspects. I wonder how you can write something like this when it has happened to you. It is disturbing bad oddly fascinating as well. Tell me what you think, should you read it. It’s not very long 180 pages.

  4. Have you seen the French film MR73? It’s FANTASTIC. It basically has two story threads–a policeman investigating a series of brutal rapes and torture murders and a case from years earlier. In the case that took place decades before, a little girl (and her sister) survived when a killer broke in and slaughtered her parents. The girl never really gets over it and in adulthood when she discovers that the killer is getting out, she writes to him and sends him her photo. It all makes sense the way it’s told. An amazing film but it does have its harrowing sections.

    This book has me interested.

    • No, I haven’t seen the movie, thanks for the recommendation.
      It’s an intriguing book. The details of that night are revealed very slowly and it was very believable. Even the fact that she would attract the attention of a convicted rapist. I know it sounds a bit odd to say I liked it but I did. I would be interested to read what you think.

  5. Have you seen “Alone” (Allein), a German movie starring Lavinia Wilson? This movie has nothing to do with rape or abuse, but Borderline Syndrome. However, it may have some emotional parallels to “Thief”.

    In fact from what you wrote, there my be some strong parallels. Probably one worth reviewing (adding to my to-be-reviewed list).

    • She is highly acclaimed Stu, a very assured writer. Its not her first book but I hadn’t noticed her before. I hope you will like her as well, should you try her.

  6. Great review, Caroline! This looks like a disturbing and powerful book. It is interesting that the heroine flirts with danger when she goes and meets the prisoner who is interested in her. I can’t wait to find out what happened next. I hope that she finds the answers she is seeking for, in the end.

    • Thanks, Vishy. It was disturbing because she put herself in harms way again and again and felt that she was responsible for the rape. I liked reading it, it felt very realistic and honest. I’m afarid I can’t tell you how it ended but not like expected.

  7. How could she name the rapist ALPHA? Isn’t a bit too much “male” for a rapist?

    It’s not what I need right now but it does sound like a good book for a book club.

  8. as long as it is not gratuitous, I can live with that 😉

    The book sounds intriguing and unusual…and I can imagine how disturbing it was. A self destruct character can be both interesting and annoying. I wonder how I feel if I read it.

    nice review, Caroline

    • Thanks Novia. I think it’s an importnat book as well. It makes you think about a lot of prejudices. There is the moment when she sees the guy and sees how good looking he is and that makes her think how prejudiced she is for thinking “He doesn’t look like a rapist!”. Maybe some readers would wish that she had been less explicit. 🙂

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