Friday, June 15, 2007

Stolen Child Steals The Heart

After reading The Stolen Child, I had to find Keith Donohue's biography (no easy task) to find out how old he is. Surprise! He's just a kid! He's not even forty! I was startled to discover he was so much younger than I because, as a baby boomer born in '46, I listen for the voice of my generation, and Donohue has it--he's just too young to have lived it. Like a good novelist, he tricks us into belief.

The plot of The Stolen Child is simple, based on a W.B. Yeat's poem of the same name. A child of the '40's named Henry Day is stolen by hobgoblins and one of the captors takes his place. Henry and the changeling grow up, each telling his story in alternating chapters, crossing paths until one day they meet. There is humor and pathos, but primarily a thoughtful retelling of the changes that occur when a child is taken from his natural setting and is forced to begin a new life.

The beauty of the book, and the poignant sweetness, is that about mid-way this Baby Boomer (who had been blithely reliving her life through the events that swirl around Henry and the changeling) entered emotionally into the story. I, too, am a changeling, as are my many compatriots born in the late 40's. How many lives have we led, and how foreign do we feel in each of them? And, for me, how impossible is it to go home and be that solitary kid on the rock hill who dreamed away the long days?

Who were you before the divorce? And who are you now? Who will you be once you've married again? And can you ever drive past the house that held that other life and not feel the ghosts of another time watching you pass? How do you move on?

Donohue, kid that he is, leads his characters home and, in so doing, holds out to all of us--lost children that we are--a handful of hope.

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