cover image Stealing


Margaret Verble. HarperVia, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-326705-3

Verble, a Pulitzer finalist for Maud’s Line, draws on the abuses at Native American and First Nations boarding schools for her blistering latest, set in the 1950s somewhere along the Arkansas River. Nine-year-old Kit Crockett has been lonely since the death of her Cherokee mother; her white father cares for her as best he can. When glamorous Bella moves into a nearby cabin that used to be Kit’s uncle’s, Kit revels in the woman’s maternal affection, but the locals aren’t very welcoming toward the outsider, who descends from a “stew” of Native and white ancestors. In the aftermath of a tragedy, the details of which are made clear near the end, local clerical and legal authorities compel Kit to attend a nearby boarding school, where she and other Native girls are subjected to prejudice and abuse. Kit’s only solace is her journal, in which she traces her friendship with Bella and chronicles the school’s mistreatment of students. Kit’s realistically naive perspective and her appealingly digressive narration build suspense and intrigue as readers slowly grasp the scale of the losses that will shape her life. Evoking the title, the varied meanings of “steal” (both to abscond and to creep) weave throughout the story in clever ways. Verble’s skillful storytelling does justice to a harrowing chapter of history. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Feb.)