The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

30 Sep

The Borrower

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

From the inside flap:

Lucy Hall, a young 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.  The precocious Ian is addiction to reading, but needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly anti-gay classes.

Lucy, a rebel at heart beneath her librarian’s exterior, 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 the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian.  The odd pair embarks on an improvised road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets and an inconvenient boyfriend thrown in their path.  Along the way, Lucy struggles to make peace with her Russian immigrant father and his fugitive past, and is forced to use his shady connections to escape discovery.

But is it just Ian who’s running away? Who is the strange man on their trail?  And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

This is a book about a librarian, so it was a given that I would read it. This was an extremely frustrating book, but that might be why I kept reading. I was so engaged with character, I’m surprised I didn’t find myself arguing out loud with Lucy. For an adult (albeit a young one) she makes choices that cause a woman of certain age (such as myself) to just shake her head in disbelief.  What adult allows a ten year old boy to highjack them and call all the shots?  But, truth be told, since I work in a building full of kids around that age, I must concede  that I sometimes feel that the children (my own as well my students) have taken over.  But then I snap out of it, realize I’m the adult and if I’m going to make a positive difference in the lives of children, I have to act like one.  I don’t think Lucy ever really comes to that conclusion.  I believe she wants to help Ian, but she has no clue about realistic ways to do that.

What I liked about the book:  One of the main characters (Lucy) is a children’s librarian.  The other (Ian) is a total bookworm. There are several references to beloved children’s books.  I had to stop myself from making a list of books I wanted to re-read based on the titles mentioned in this story. Though Lucy is a rather wayward young woman who still has quite a bit of maturing to do, I couldn’t help but like her.

What I didn’t like about the book:  I didn’t like the way librarians in general were presented. I’m wondering if Makkai had a bad experience with a librarian and has never gotten over it. The book is a little preachy on some topics: intellectual freedom and freedom to be yourself, are just a couple of them.  Also, the idea that an adult would allow herself to be “kidnapped” by a ten year old child is just unbelievable.  Bottom line: this book is flawed and I feel guilty admitting that I enjoyed reading it and that I bought a copy for my personal library.

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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


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