I was hooked on the first page of The Secret Thief. It was poignant, bittersweet, and so well written that I found myself sorry to read the end...Judith Jaeger's writing is so exceptional that I could find myself inside the character, forgetting for a while that I was reading a book, and experiencing everything Connie did.
— Judy Yerka, MA
Just a quick note to tell you I am a little over halfway through The Secret Thief. I am really having trouble putting it down! You are an excellent writer and I am more than enjoying your book. I love your writing style. Let me know when you finish your next book.
—Lynda Harvey, Massachusetts
I just finished your book and loved every page. I was into it from the very beginning and just could not rest at night without reading at least a few chapters. I think that it needs a sequel already. I actually thought that the ending would be different but was not disappointed. Keep up the good works.
—Eleanor Grace Thiel, New York
The pain in my stomach is still bad, but not bad enough to stop me from pulling on a pair of black nylon running shorts, a white sports bra—to hold my flat chest in place—and a white cotton-spandex shirt over the bra. The shirt is supposed to be tight fitting, but is almost loose on my bony frame.
I tie the laces on my new running shoes. They're expensive shoes, and my mother often scolds me for spending so much on them, but I ignore her. They're snug, and over the course of a few days, maybe a week, they'll become a second skin. They are thin and light, and when I take them off, they hold their shape. Every time I bring home a new pair, my mother throws a fit. "How can you spend so much on them?" she says, holding one shoe up between her thumb and forefinger, too expensive even to touch. "There's nothing to them!" A certain kind of person would purposely buy the most expensive running shoes just to get under her mother's skin. But I'm not that kind of person. I don't buy them. They are expensive after all—$95 at most shoe stores, but free for me.
Shoes are the easiest. Put them on and wander around until the store gets really busy or the staff are helping other customers. Then walk out. Sometimes, stores put those big, plastic anti-theft tags on shoes that expensive. If you can't convince the clerk to remove the tag so you can try them on properly, then you slip them into the foil-lined shopping bag you carry with you through the mall for just such an occasion. The foil blocks the sensors, and one hit with a hammer will remove the tags at home. The new shoes feel good, already conforming to my feet as I jog up Grove Street and along the side streets that wind through Grandmother's neighborhood toward Main Street.
There are two cans of Comet and three bottles of Windex left. I put all of them in the plastic grocery basket. It's tough to take the five-finger discount on five big bottles of cleanser, even for an expert like me. I wander through the store looking for something else. I put my basket on the floor and sneak long glances at Hassidic women and the lesbians while I pretend to be searching for the right color of blush from what seems an endless amount of choices. What's the difference between "buff," "nude" and "soft suede?" And I'm no make-up expert, but why would someone wear nude-colored blush? Isn't the point of blush to make your skin pinker or redder or something?
Color doesn't matter to me, anyway. The mirrors are what count, and there aren't many. My hand roves the rack, hovering a moment over each compact until I find just what I'm looking for. A round green compact of "bubble gum pink" powder with a mirror in the lid. I hold the mirror up in front of my face and watch everyone behind me. Mirrors are great for looking at other people.
My father was in a war, too. David Hobbs. A boy my mother met at the start of her second year of college. Love at first sight, she said. After only a month, David Hobbs told my mother he was going to propose to her someday. I can't imagine what my mother must have felt when he said that. It was probably just like that movie where that red-headed guy finally gives those diamond earrings to the girl who's truly loved him all along. And so what if she dresses a little weird and plays the drums. He loves her anyway.
Before the end of my mother's sophomore year, David Hobbs was gone. He'd had enough of college. He wanted to do something real, my mother said. So, he enlisted, and was killed just about as soon as he set foot in Vietnam. My mother didn't offer any more details than that.
A month after she got the news, my mother was back in Green Hill, telling Papa and Grandmother that she was pregnant. She told them after one of Grandmother's big Sunday dinners. My mother says Grandmother didn't say a word, just marched up to my mother's room, the yellow bedroom, and started packing up my mother's clothes. The way my mother tells it, Grandmother quietly removed each drawer out of the bureau, dumped the contents into a trash bag and put the drawer back. She emptied the closet, took everything off the bureau and the night stand—the figurines, my mother's jewelry box, the book she was reading—and put them in the trash bag, too. She stripped the bed and took down the curtains, erasing my mother's presence.
When she started tearing at the wallpaper, trying to rip it off the walls, Papa grabbed Grandmother's wrists and shook her a little. 'Enough," he told her.
Grandmother looked at my mother, who was curled up against the doorjamb, making herself as small as possible. My mother's red face was wet with tears, but she made no sound. She hid her face in the crook of her arm. Grandmother looked back at Papa. "Enough," he said again, and Grandmother marched out of the room.