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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

The Borrower

by

The Borrower Cover

ISBN13: 9780670022816
ISBN10: 0670022810
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

I might be the villain of this story. Even now, it’s hard to tell.

Back at the library, amid the books and books on ancient Egypt, the picture the children loved most showed the god of death weighing a dead man’s heart against a feather. There is this consolation, then, at least: One day, I will know my guilt.

I’ve left behind everyone I used to know. I’ve found another library, one with oak walls, iron railings. A college library, where the borrowers already know what they’re looking for. I scan their books and they barely acknowledge me through their caffeinated haze. It’s nothing like my old stained-carpet, brick-walled library, but the books are the same—same spines, same codes on yellowed labels. I know what’s in them all. They whisper their judgment down.

The runaways, the kidnappers, look down from their shelves and claim me for their own. They tell me to light out for the Territory, reckon I’m headed for Hell just like them. They say I’m the most terrific liar they ever saw in their lives. And that one, old lecher-lepidopterist, gabbling grabber, stirring his vodka-pineapple from the high narrow shelf of N-A-B, let me twist his words. (You can always count on a librarian for a derivative prose style): Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what I envied, what I thought I could fix. Look at this prison of books.

Before this all began, I told Rocky that one day I’d arrange my books by main character, down through the alphabet. I realize now where I’d be: Hull, snug between Huck and Humbert. But really I should file it under Drake, for Ian, for the boy I stole, because regardless of who the villain is, I’m not the hero of this story. I’m not even the subject of this prayer.

Every Friday at 4:30, they gathered cross-legged on the brown shag rug, picked at its crust of mud and glitter and Elmer’s glue, and leaned against the picture-book shelves.

I had five regulars, and a couple of them would have come seven days a week if they could. Ian Drake came with chicken pox, with a broken leg. He came even when he knew it had been cancelled that week, and sat there reading aloud to himself. And then each week there were two or three extras whose parents happened to need a babysitter. They’d squirm through chapters eight and nine of a book they couldn’t follow, pulling strings from their socks and then flossing their teeth with them.

That fall, five years ago, we were halfway through Matilda. Ian came galloping up to me before reading time, our fourth week into the book.

“I told my mom we’re reading Little House in the Big Woods again. I don’t think she’d be a fan of Matilda too much. She didn’t even like Fantastic Mr. Fox.” He forked his fingers through his hair. “Are we kapeesh?”

I nodded. “We don’t want your mom to worry.” We hadn’t gotten to the magic part yet, but Ian had read it before, secretly, crouched on the floor by the Roald Dahl shelf. He knew what was coming.

He skipped off down the biography aisle, then wandered back up through science, his head tilted sideways to read the spines.

Loraine came up beside me—Loraine Best, the head librarian, who thank God hadn’t heard our collusions—and watched the first few children gather on the rug. She came downstairs some Fridays just to smile and nod at the mothers as they dropped them off, as if she had some hand in Chapter Book Hour. As if her reading three minutes of Green Eggs and Ham wouldn’t make half the children cry and the others raise their hands to ask if she was a good witch or a bad witch.

Ian disappeared again, then walked up through American History, touching each book on the top right-hand row. “He practically lives here, doesn’t he?” Loraine whispered. “That little homosexual boy.”

“He’s ten years old!” I said. “I doubt he’s anything-sexual.”

“Well I’m sorry, Lucy, I have nothing against him, but that child is a gay.” She said it with the same tone of pleasure at her own imagined magnanimity that my father used every time he referred to “Ophelia, my black secretary.”

Over in fiction now, Ian stood on tiptoes to pull a large green book from a high shelf. A mystery: the blue sticker-man with his magnifying glass peered from the spine. Ian sat on the floor and started in on the first page as if it indeed contained all the mysteries of the world, as if everything in the universe could be solved by page 132. His glasses caught the fluorescent light, two yellow discs over the pages. He didn’t move until the other children began gathering and Loraine bent down beside him and said, “Everyone’s waiting for you.” We weren’t—Tony didn’t even have his coat off yet—but Ian scooted on his rear all the way across the floor to join us, without ever looking up from the book. We had five listeners that day, all regulars.

“All right,” I said, hoping Loraine would make her exit now, “where did we leave off?”

“Miss Trunchbull yelled because they didn’t know their math,” said Melissa.

“And she yelled at Miss Honey.”

“And they were learning their threes.”

Ian sighed loudly and held up his hand.

“Yes?”

“That was all two weeks ago. BUT, when last we left our heroine, she was learning of Miss Trunchbull’s history as a hammer thrower, and also we were learning of the many torture devices she kept in her office.”

“Thank you, Ian.” He grinned at me. Loraine rolled her eyes—whether at me or Ian, I wasn’t sure—and tottered back to the stairs. I almost always had to cut Ian off, but he didn’t mind. Short of burning down the library there was nothing I could do that would push him away. I was keeping Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing behind the desk to sneak to him whenever he came without his babysitter. Almost every afternoon for the past week he had run downstairs and stuck his head over my desk, panting.

Back then, before that long winter, Ian reminded me most of a helium balloon. Not just his voice, but the way he’d look straight up when he talked and bounce around on his toes as if he were struggling not to take off.

(Did he have a predecessor? asks Humbert.

No. No, he didn’t. I’d never met anyone like him in my life.)

Whenever he couldn’t find a book he liked, he’d come lean on the desk. “What should I read?”

“How to Stop Whining,” I’d say, or “An Introduction to the Computer Catalogue,” but he knew I was kidding. He knew it was my favorite question in the world. Then I’d pick something for him—D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths one time, The Wheel on the School another. He usually liked what I picked, and the D’Aulaire’s launched him on a mythology spree that lasted a good two months.

Because Loraine warned me early on about Ian’s mother, I made sure he read books with innocuous titles and pleasant covers. Nothing scary-looking, no Egypt Game. When he was eight, he came with a babysitter and borrowed Theater Shoes. He returned it the next day and told me he was only allowed to read “boy books.”

Fortunately, his mother didn’t seem to have a great knowledge of children’s literature. So My Side of the Mountain crept under the radar, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Both books about running away, I realized later, though I swear at the time it never crossed my mind.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

l_zard, January 23, 2012 (view all comments by l_zard)
Interesting view from a childrens librarian...
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LisaW, January 4, 2012 (view all comments by LisaW)
Inspiring and insipid, the heroine (can you call her that?) of the book makes you laugh, and groan. Her journey with 10 year old Ian, however, leaves you rooting for both of them. And her denouement for the issue underlying her quest leaves you smiling (and feeling like there just isn't enough time to read great books!!!!). A fun read which could not be put down. Definitely my favorite book published in 2011.
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The Book Goddess, November 13, 2011 (view all comments by The Book Goddess)
I'm not sure exactly what to say about this book..it was off-beat and quirky. Definitely an original plot and a unique way of telling a story. As a lover of all things books, I really enjoyed the many book references that were sprinkled throughout the story. I'm still on the fence about how I feel about the main character, Lucy. Through most of the book I was thinking to myself "What is wrong with her, she is an adult..." I was a little disappointed with the lack of development in the other characters, but in restropect, that was probably done on purpose in order to keep the story focused on Lucy and Ian. Overall, I liked the book but I definitely don't see it being mainstream popular.(
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780670022816
Subtitle:
Stories
Author:
Makkai, Rebecca
Publisher:
Viking Adult
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Stories (single author)
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20150714
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Borrower Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Viking Adult - English 9780670022816 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

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.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road.
"Synopsis" by ,
A spellbinding short story collection from a master of the form, the acclaimed author of The Hundred-Year House

Rebecca Makkais first two novels, The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House have established her as one of the freshest and most imaginative voices in fiction. Now, the acclaimed writer returns with a highly anticipated collection of short stories marked with her signature mix of intelligence, wit, and heart.

A reality show producer manipulates two contestants into falling in love, while her own relationship falls apart. Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a young boy has a revelation about his fathers past when a renowned Romanian violinist plays a concert in their home. In an unnamed country, a composer records the folk songs of two women from a village on the brink of destruction.

Makkai has been anthologized four times in The Best American Short Stories as well as The Best American Nonrequired Reading. These wide-ranging and deeply moving stories—some inspired by her family history—will delight her many fans, as well as readers of Lorrie Moore, Jim Shepard, and Karen Russell.

"Synopsis" by ,

"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?

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