Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Stealing by Margaret Verble, set in the 1950s, introduces a courageous, unforgettable young Cherokee heroine

This short, compassionately written, and powerful novel is told in the unquenchable voice of Karen “Kit” Crockett, who is raised by her white father in the 1950s South after her Cherokee mother’s death. At nine, Kit spends much time alone, fishing in the bayou and eagerly awaiting each bookmobile visit; she has an abundance of sorrows but knows her family loves her.

When she spies an unfamiliar car at her late Uncle Joe’s cabin, Kit grows intrigued. Her attractive new neighbor, Bella, is divorced and has two “boyfriends” she doesn’t much like (“Kit, you won’t understand this yet, but they pay the bills,” Bella says). Despite the age difference and the hostility of a reclusive old woman down the lane, the pair become good friends.

It isn’t to last. From the beginning, Kit makes clear that she’s no longer home and is setting her thoughts to paper years later, after being taken (stolen) from her family and enrolled in a religious boarding school, where other schoolkids are cruel, and teachers lecture them about original sin. Even worse, the director, Mr. Hodges, is an unctuous hypocrite who saves his worst punishments (sexual abuse) for the Indian students.

An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and a Pulitzer finalist, Verble is a magnetic storyteller – the book is difficult to put down – who has created an indelible heroine in Kit, who gradually unspools the tragic backstory of how she landed in such a despised place. The themes of prejudice and of religion as a controlling force are strongly felt.

Kit’s personality bursts through every line: vulnerable, traumatized, honest, scrappy, and resolved to survive and escape. While she’s raised to be respectful to adults and doesn’t always understand their world, she can tell in a second if they’re lying. You won’t forget meeting her.

Stealing was published by Mariner/HarperCollins this month; I reviewed it from an Edelweiss e-copy for February's Historical Novels Review.

Margaret Verble is the author of three previous historical novels: Maud's Line (a Pulitzer finalist in 2016), Cherokee America (a Spur Award winner for Best Western), and When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky.


  1. Bobbi Miller6:56 AM

    This sounds intriguing!! Thank you for the recommendation!

    1. Glad to hear it caught your interest!