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.