Meticulously researched — the footnotes take up about a sixth of the book, and are worth looking at ... Stolen is a remarkable narrative, in part, because of how Bell manages to clearly relate the complex politics of the time without ever legitimizing the choices made by those who bought and sold human lives. It's also wonderful for the ways in which Bell infuses each stage of the children's harrowing ordeal with empathy, focusing in on what they might have been feeling, drawing either from the precious little that remains of their own voices or from contemporary accounts of similarly traumatic kidnappings. In telling as full a story as he can, Bell gives voice to the broader implications of this episode while not losing sight of all that is specific and singular about Tilghman, Manlove, Johnson, Sinclair, and Scomp's experiences.
... extraordinary ... through painstaking archival research, Bell [has] reconstructed their lives with such vivid detail, sensitivity, and riveting storytelling that you would think each of their figures left us whole autobiographies. For the simple act of recovering their stories, [this] book would be commendable. But what makes [it] essential reading is the larger questions [it] demand of us as readers: What exactly was the condition under which un-enslaved black people lived before emancipation—and what is it that they and their descendants are owed? ... rich detail ... Where the archives run thin, Bell responsibly imagines what these two boys’ interior lives might have been like, and how they might have been kidnapped ... That the man who offered these boys some work was black might seem surprising. But the most compelling aspect of Stolen is how Bell handles these seeming oddities.
... gripping, often chilling ... Bell brings to life amoral con men, heartless slave dealers and suffering victims. He vividly re-creates the squalid social environments of interstate human trafficking. His superbly researched and engaging book exposes previously hidden horrors of American slavery.