The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

[This book is coming out in June 2011.] This treasure was in a stack of prepubs Paul brought home on Friday.  Since the main character is a children’s librarian I was drawn to it and practically devoured it over the weekend.  First, I thought this was a really well written book.  I’m not familiar with the author’s other works, but apparently she has written other works that have been in anthologies.
Miss Hull (I forget her first name and am not going to go fetch the book to find out) has become a children’s librarian in a small town sort of through default/laziness.  She is not a trained librarian but was hired sight unseen by the alcoholic director because they needed someone.  The library details were so spot on and despite not having much of a passion for the profession it seems like she is actually a really good librarian and she definitely loves and is familiar with children’s literature.  She is good with the kids and one child in particular uses the library as a haven-10 year old Ian.  Ian is the child of devoutly religious fundamentalist Christians.  Somewhat of a classic set-up–Ian loves to read and the librarian helps him smuggle out all the wonderful books his mother will not permit.  Lucy (thank you, amazon) discovers that Ian is also enrolled in a class with Pastor Bob-a class designed to keep kids identified as potentially gay from acting on that.
Eventually, one day, Lucy and Ian depart town together.  Since he’s 10 basically Lucy is kidnapping him.  Which she realizes and the more she drives the worse she realizes the situation is.  Ian doesn’t feel kidnapped, but that doesn’t make it any better.  Ian and Lucy’s journey takes them to some interesting places and gives a fascinating insight into Lucy’s Russian immigrant background.  There were funny and tender moments, and a constant low tension about how it will all turn out (which, honestly, I really did not know how it would end until the book was over.)
I really enjoyed the references to children’s books (in particular, the title) and imagined the entire library very vividly in my head as the one I worked in on Martha’s Vineyard!

This is not coming out until June, so put it on your to read list!

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4 thoughts on “The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

  1. Hi Sarah – I finally got a post up about this; I finished it a while back, was struggling with figuring out how to talk about it (I’m used to commenting on short stories, so novels are always a challenge). I very much enjoyed the beginning, then she sort of lost me in the middle (my disbelief was stretched beyond suspension) but wow, did she ever win me back. Very worthwhile reading.

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