Synopses & Reviews
On the first page of The Book Borrower,
Toby Ruben and Deborah Laidlaw meet in 1975 in a New York City playground, where the two women are looking after their babies. Deborah lends Toby a book, Trolley Girl,
a memoir about a long ago trolley strike and three Jewish sisters, one a fiery revolutionary that will disappear and reappear throughout the twenty-two years these women are friends.
Through two decades Deborah and Toby raise their children, embark on teaching careers, and argue about politics, education, and their own lives. One day during a hike, they have an argument that cannot be resolved and the two women take different, permanent paths but it is ultimately the borrowed book that will bring them back together. With sensitivity and grace, Alice Mattison shows how books can rescue us from our deepest sorrows; how the events of the outside world play into our private lives; and how the bonds between women are enduring, mysterious, and laced with surprise.
"This excellent novel weaves the story of a 1921 trolley strike...Mattison is concerned with the small decisions and coincidences that alter the course of our lives. Are they accidents, or impulses born of something deeper? Mattison's observations are so minutely compelling that each one feels like a shiny object, once lost but found unexpectedly." The New Yorker
"A rich, textured exploration of misfortune and its consequences: a book that will reward any reader willing to go slow and absorb its course." Kirkus
"In deceptively quiet, guileless prose, she has described the mind numbing routine of child-care and the fraught, complex relations of men and women. Only Margaret Atwood (in Cat's Eye) has written as knowingly about the frienship between women. Emotionally wrenching, beautifully realized work." The New York Times
The author of Men Giving Money, Women Yelling now offers a moving, deftly structured novel depicting the friendship between two women that begins with the lending of a book and lasts more than 20 years.
About the Author
Alice Mattison grew up in Brooklyn and studied at Queens College and Harvard. She is the author of four novels, three previous collections of short stories, and a volume of poetry. She teaches fiction in the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Ms.magazine, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, Agni, The Threepenny Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and Shenandoah. Mattison lives in New Haven, Connecticut.