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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
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 anti-gay 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?
"Makkai shows promise in her overworked debut, an occasionally funny crime farce about a hapless librarian — cum — accidental kidnapper. Lucy Hull is a 26-year-old whose rebellion against her wealthy Russian mafia parents has taken the form of her accepting a children's librarian job in small-town Missouri. After an unnecessarily long-winded first act, the novel picks up when Lucy discovers her favorite library regular, 10-year-old Ian Drake, hiding out in the stacks one morning after having run away from his evangelical Christian parents, who censor his book choices and are preemptively sending him to SSAD (Same-Sex Attraction Disorder) rehab, and Lucy soon aids and abets his escape. The tale of their subsequent jaunt across several state lines dodging cops, a persistent suitor of Lucy's, and a suspicious black-haired pursuer is fast-paced, suspenseful, and thoroughly enjoyable — the real meat of the book. Unfortunately, the padding around the adventure too often feels like preaching to the choir (censorship is bad, libraries and independent booksellers are good) and the frequent references to children's books — including a 'choose-your-own adventure' interlude — quickly go from cute to irritating. There's great potential, but it's buried in unfortunate fluff. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"[Lucy's] relationship with Ian is charming and original...A stylish and clever tale for bibliophiles who enjoy authors like Jasper Fforde and Connie Willis." Library Journal
"Makkai takes several risks in her sharp, often witty text, replete with echoes of children's classics from Goodnight Moon to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as well as more ominous references to Lolita...the moving final chapters affirm the power of books to change people's lives even as they acknowledge the unbreakable bonds of home and family. Smart, literate and refreshingly unsentimental." Kirkus Reviews
In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road.
"Rarely is a first novel as smart and engaging and learned and funny and moving as The Borrower." —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 short 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. Visit rebeccamakkai.com.
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