If you’ve never stolen anything before, you may mistakenly think that stealing is hard – if it’s not to do, per se, then get away with it. We operate in a social panopticon, more so now (in the age of surveillance capitalism) than at any other time in human history. Whether organic or electronic, eyes and ears are everywhere, and if the average true-crime documentary is to be believed, we humans are little more than meaty piles of soon-to-be DNA evidence. lost. And for the final nail in the coffin, our species is fundamentally empathetic, even if daily headlines sometimes suggest otherwise; generally speaking, we don’t really like knowing that our actions have caused harm. Despite ourselves, however, we feel a common thread.
For Ann Josephson, the protagonist of Kelly I. Hitchcock Klepto Communityflying is much easier than pulling on this thread.
First, a confession: I had a bit of a habit of shoplifting in high school. Nothing major – I’ve never been in trouble with the cops or even a store manager, and the most expensive item I ever picked up was a $40 fedora (don’t @ me) from Fred Meyer – but it had been a fairly stable habit for several years before I got out of it, so in some ways I was predestined to find Ann highly relatable. Luckily for those without a juicy criminal past, Ann’s complicated and self-effacing inner world offers multiple avenues of entry. At 25, she’s a chronic shut-in, a socially anxious millennial gym rat who makes ends meet through a combination of sporadic indie gigs and her parents’ goodwill. It may not be a flattering portrait, but readers will find it hard not to find a part of themselves in it.
A hypercritical observer but always distant from others, Ann’s doubt colors her vision of everything around her, bleeding on everyone who crosses her path. It’s a catch-22 that even Ann acknowledges: “Of course, it’s hard for me to trust someone else’s innate morality when I’m the one watching them leave their shit unprotected for that I could take her home with me. Anyone could just walk up and pick her up, but I really do.” Classified by her therapist as a “context-specific compulsive kleptomaniac”, Ann’s stealing is all about her connection to the world around her, a coping mechanism to fill the void where friends, family and loved ones relationships should be. The items she collects in “Room 403” (a shy name for the space she fills with stolen goods) are personal, a way to create intimacy between her and the strangers she shares the space with. local community center gymnasium. True intimacy—knowing others and letting them get to know her—remains elusive, and Ann isn’t sure she wants it anyway. What have other people done for her, after all, other than leaving their gym equipment strewn about in the stretching area of the gym?
And then she meets Joe.
Part rom-com, part psychological profile, part redemption story, Klepto Community is a quick read, but don’t let its digestibility fool you. Ann’s World is one you can chew over and over again without losing its flavor; if anything, repeated tastings — like a fine wine or one of Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstoppers — reveal whole new flavors to savor. The icing on the cake ? Ann’s critical interior monologue is absolutely hilarious. If you’re looking for laughs, heart, and an honest look at the nonlinear path to self-improvement, pick this one the next time you’re at BookPeople.
Just be sure to pay for it.
Klepto Community by Kelly I. Hitchcock, She Writes Press, 240 pages, $16.95 (paper)