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The Borrowerby Rebecca Makkai
Lucy is a children's librarian who one day, sort of accidentally, takes her work home with her. Actually, she kidnaps one of her regular readers — well, perhaps not kidnaps, but something very close to that, only not so malevolent. Ten-year-old Ian suffers at the hands of his fundamentalist parents (although it's not exactly crystal clear how), and he runs away. Somehow he manages to drag Lucy with him. As they spend 10 days wandering aimlessly through several states, leaving mountains of lies behind them, Lucy questions her sanity as well as her ethics. They soon begin to run out of funds and realize they are being followed, and it seems that this story can only end badly. Yet, eventually, one thing becomes clear: sometimes the worst choice turns out to be the best choice. Very tenderly told, this is a sweet tale of books, family, identity, and surprisingly, love.
Synopses & Reviews
In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road.
Lucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy's help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan. Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?
"An appealing, nonromantic love story about an unexpected pairing — and a surprisingly moving one." The New York Times
"This comical and touching book strikes a nice balance between literary artistry and gripping storytelling, and offers a contemporary take on the classic 'journey of discovery.'...Right up to the book's satisfying and well-plotted ending, Makkai shows us that even though the stories we are told as children are often fount to betray us as mere fantasy, there might still be some wisdom in the one of their most common and simple morals: Be true to yourself." The Daily Beast, Selected as one of "3 Must Read Novels"
"Rebecca Makkai's The Borrower is full of books, libraries, cross-country hijinks, accidental parenting, love gone wrong and friendships gone right. Makkai will have you cheering for her librarian heroine, who has all the history and darkness of a Russian novel in her veins, mixed with the humor and spirit of Bridget Jones. A fun, moving, and delightful read." Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
"In the hilariously off-kilter world Makkai creates, it makes perfect sense that 26-year-old children's librarian Lucy Hull and her favorite reading-obsessed patron, 10-year-old Ian Drake, should 'kidnap' each other and take a loopy road trip. Clever riffs on classic kid lit pepper the sparkling prose, making this first novel a captivating read." Parade Magazine
"How could any reader of any age resist Rebecca Makkai's charming The Borrower, a novel that tracks the relationship between a 20-something librarian and a 10-year-old boy with punitive parents. Part caper (the two take off on a road trip that has moments of danger but never turns dark), part coming-of-age (and not just for the kid!) story, it manages, with good humor and wry self-knowledge, to read our minds." O, Oprah Magazine
"A lively, lovely read that delicately weaves together social activism, literary culture and the quintessential road trip motif into a single solid adventure tale....Reading The Borrower is like taking a blissfully nostalgic journey into the bookshelves of American childhood." WSJ.com
"A wise and likable tale about the difficulty of protecting a precocious imagination." The Wall Street Journal
"Poignant...every conflicted word Lucy utters in Makkai's probing novel reminds us that literature matters because it helps us discover ourselves while exploring the worlds of others." The Chicago Tribune
"Rarely is a first novel as smart and engaging and learned and funny and moving as The Borrower. Rebecca Makkai is a writer to watch, as sneakily ambitious as she is unpretentious." Richard Russo, author of Pulitzer Prize–winning Empire Falls
Lucy Hull, a children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. Ian needs Lucy's help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes. Desperate to save him from the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian when she finds him camped out in the library after hours, and the odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip. But is it just Ian who is running away? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?
About the Author
Rebecca Makkai's stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2008, 2009, and 2010, and have appeared in Tin House, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, and on NPR's Selected Shorts. Makkai teaches elementary school and lives north of Chicago with her husband and two daughters.
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