How to Steal a Dog opens with the best and most heartbreaking beginning sentence in any recent piece of children's literature: "The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car." When I read that sentence, I felt like I was sucker-punched. Twice.
With a title like How to Steal a Dog, you might think this book was about the dog. You'd be wrong. It is about so much more. It is about relationships. It is about love. It is about suffering. It is about wrestling with the conscience. It is about life. I had no trouble relating to all the main characters in this book: The mother, who was working two jobs just to try to provide the basic needs for her children and still failing to provide the shelter; Carmella, whose dog is her best friend, child and center of her life; Toby, the younger sibling who is called "stupid" when he points out flaws in the older sibling's plans; and the dog-stealing Georgina, who tries to give her family the help that they so desperately need.
I became so invested in the lives of these character during the course of the short 165 pages that I would have felt cheated if Ms. O'Connor gave them an easy, happy ending. She didn't. She gave this story a perfect ending, one that was full of hope and unresolved problems. Just like life.