The Good Thief: A Novel Essay - Critical Essays

Hannah Tinti

Literary Criticism and Significance

Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief was released to critical and commercial acclaim. The novel won numerous awards, including the American Library Association’s Alex Award, which highlights works that have a special appeal for adolescents, and the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. Critics have consistently praised The Good Thief for its plot, often comparing Ren’s story to the works of Charles Dickens.

Critics even praise The Good Thief for its Dickensian cast of characters. Ren, an essentially good orphan who becomes entangled in a band of criminals, strongly recalls Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Critics have noted similarities to other Dickens novels, including Great Expectations and David Copperfield. Writing for The New York Times, Maile Meloy notes that although the cast of characters recalls Dickens,

Tinti’s prose is straightforward and measured, with none of Dickens’ baroque whimsy.

Although Dickens is still a widely read nineteenth-century author, his work is often considered overly sentimental by modern audiences, and this deviation in writing allows Tinti’s work to revive the sentimentality of the orphan’s tale for a twenty-first-century audience. Ron Charles expands on this idea in The Washington Post, suggesting that

Ren’s plight is creaky with sentimentality, but Tinti knows how to keep her balance as she steps through these hoary conventions of Victorian melodrama.

Tinti has managed to take the aspects of Dickens’s work that will best appeal to a modern audience for her short, concise story.

Critics have also praised Tinti for her ability to write for a broad audience. Although The Good Thief won the Alex Award, which highlights novels that adolescent readers are likely to enjoy, Meloy argues:

It is a book for adults, in addition to being the kind of story that might have kept you reading all day when you were home sick from school.

The plot of the text is complex and engaging, and much of its appeal is drawn from its macabre plot and humor. When Benjamin and Tom dig up Dolly and discover that he is still alive, they amusingly regret their misfortune. However, although the novel is often dark in content, it highlights the importance of the family and of compassion.

The Good Thief is Hannah Tinti’s first novel, but it is a strong representation of her work as a whole. Her short story collection, Animal Crackers, is also considered a macabre story collection. Like The Good Thief, the stories in Animal Crackers are dark and filled with unorthodox characters. Tinti is the editor of One Story magazine, which seeks to publish authors only once in the hope of discovering more American voices. It is a philosophy that is designed to include a great variety of writers, which recalls the great variety of unorthodox characters found in Tinti’s stories.