Once, We Were Stolen grabbed me from the very beginning and didn't let go. I found myself counting down the minutes to nap time, hoping for some undisturbed reading time. And as I neared the end I couldn't put it down until I saw the story to its surprising conclusion. I finished the book with my sleeves drenched in tears and my heart racing.
It is the story of three characters, a small boy, his teenage sister, and their kidnapper. Set in the Northern Ontario town of Blind River, Ben and Violet Wrigley are held captive after offering a harmless looking stranger a ride home. "The siblings discover what it takes to find love in desolation, to seek beauty in everyday ugliness, and to battle emotions for a man they struggle to hate." I read this teaser on the digital book jacket and found the premise doubtful. I took it as a personal challenge. I dare you to keep hating this man. I was skeptical of her ability to make me feel otherwise. And for much of the book I won that bet. As a mom, the story made me squirm as I imagined the horror of my son being stolen. But, ultimately, I struggled to hate the kidnapper, Jeremy Ridgeroy, as much as the siblings did.
Symons has created characters that are as flawed as they are compelling. But beyond getting wrapped up in their individual stories and predicament I also found that I couldn't help but consider the ways that we, as human beings, relate to one another more broadly. What does it mean to be held captive? And what are the chains, imagined or tangible, that hold us where we are? How do we differentiate the emotions of love and hate, freedom and captivity, desire and disgust? And what happens when those seemingly steadfast lines become blurred?