The Stolen Child

Inspired by the W.B. Yeats poem that tempts a child from home to the waters and the wild, The Stolen Child (2006) is a modern fairy tale narrated by the child Henry Day and his double. On a summer night, Henry Day runs away from home and hides in a hollow tree. There he is taken by the changelings—an unaging tribe of wild children who live in darkness and in secret. They spirit him away, name him Aniday, and make him one of their own. In his place, the changelings leave a double, a boy who steals Henry’s life in the world. This new Henry Day must adjust to a modern culture while hiding his true identity from the Day family. Both Henry and Aniday obsessively search for who they once were before they changed places in the world. The Stolen Child is a classic tale of leaving childhood and the search for identity. With just the right mix of fantasy and realism, Keith Donohue has created a bedtime story for adults and a literary fable of remarkable depth and strange delights.

The Stolen Child is my first novel, published by Nan A. Talese/Random House. Published in 20 translations. Winner of the 2006 Audie Recorded Books Award, finalist for the 2006 Borders "Original Voices" Award, Quill Award, Crawford First Novel, QPB New Voices Award, International Horror Guild Award, and a "Best Books of the Year" choice from Locus magazine, the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


"On the surface, Donohue may seem to have written a clever debut novel about fairies. But the real triumph of the book is that, while our backs were turned, he has performed a switch and delivered a luminous and thrilling novel about our humanity."  -- Graham Joyce, The Washington Post


Readers are likely to be caught up in the fable eventually, especially since it culminates in a torrent of emotion. The book's two halves are devoted on one hand to forest life with oddly named comrades (Zanzara, Speck and Blomma are a few) and to uneasy acclimation to the human world on the other. The details pile up slowly but they gradually begin to snowball. The book gains unexpected force as its plots converge. -- The New York Times


"Donohue manages something like an eyes-open return to childhood in his magical and powerful debut novel. It is an unsettling and gorgeously written tale of two boys who are forced out of their childhoods too early." -- Detroit Free Press


"Like Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy or Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, The Stolen Child is the kind of mainstream fantasy that takes place at the borders of recognizable reality; Donohue’s beautifully evocative prose channels some of Yeats’ poetic whimsy, but he stays grounded in convincing relationships on both sides of that border, and his style is more modern literary classic than fairytale fluff" -- The A.V. Club


"Donohue, a Pittsburgh native, has done the remarkable in fashioning an inaugural effort that fairly begs the term “classic.” Indeed, it’s tempting to compare his work here to that of Barrie, Baum and even Tolkien—not just as a fanciful exploration of a childhood surrendered, but for its visual imagery and magic prose. But that simply wouldn’t be fair since it stands tall of its own accord." -- Pittsburgh Post Gazette


"So spare and unsentimental that it’s impossible not to be moved. He even finds a warm, resonant ending without hammering a happily-ever-after sign to the end of the book. Forget your preconceived notions about the genre. A rich, imaginative novel is a lot of people’s fantasy." -- Newsweek


"Folk legends of the changeling serve as a touchstone for Donohue’s haunting debut, set vaguely in the American northeast, about the maturation of a young man troubled by questions of identity." -- Publishers Weekly

National Public Radio on The Stolen Child and the Changeling Myth

Graham Joyce selects The Stolen Child as one of his "Top Ten Fairy Fictions" in The Guardian.

The beautiful paperback edition published in the United Kingdom.