Theft Review
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Theft is a series of five tales that take place in the 1980s and 1990s, throughout Europe and Africa. All of the stories center on someone taking something precious from another person. This is not only the theft of material possessions, but also the loss of freedom and dignity, or even the urge to control another on some level.

The book opens with the story “Pearls to Swine,” in which a married woman desperately yearns for visitors, while her husband is fine with their somewhat secluded life. When she takes matters into her own hands, she’s shocked by what she gets. What’s interesting is how the arrival of two guests expose the true character of the couple, but in opposing ways. Mediums meet every Thursday on top of a café for the Psychics Club in the longest story, “Wondrous Strange.” When one member is possessed by a Djinn (genie), however, she gives some bizarre advice that will supposedly cure a woman’s invalid husband. But what are her motives—or the motives of the Djinn? In the title story, “Theft,” a theft on a bus ruins an American tourist’s vacation, but the local passengers have more taken from them. Next, a woman mourns the disappearance of her sister in “Sisters for Shama.” Finally, in “Setting Up Shop,” a woman demands that a man give up his multiple wives—with unexpected consequences.

  
 
N. S. Köenings—who spent her childhood on multiple continents and who has lived much of her adult life in East Africa—describes these distinct cultures in vivid color and detail. However, she takes so many pages to describe the setting and develop insignificant characters that it’s hard to focus on the story line. The plot tediously rambles back and forth with so many interruptions that I eventually lost sight of what was actually going on. I no longer even cared what happened; I just wanted it all to end. Most of the conclusions didn’t make up for my frustration, either; they weren’t solid, and few provided even an intermediate remedy to the situation at hand.

Exploring unique characters, cultures, and traditions through these stories could have been a fascinating journey—and that’s what makes it such a tragedy and a major disappointment. Reading Theft requires a lot of patience, and, unfortunately, it’s just not worth the effort.

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