Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road.

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?

My take: 2 looks
I thought this an odd little book. About a librarian who takes a 10-year-old boy (Ian) on a road trip, mostly because she doesn't agree with how his parents are raising him. It seems that Ian may be gay, so his very religious parents have him in a Christian "reprogramming" class. This flies against everything the liberal librarian believes and she takes it upon herself to share with him that he is fine the way he is.
There are many layers in this story, like her lying Russian immigrant father with questionable means of income; the man in the wheelchair who may or may not love the librarian, but who certainly has trouble keeping his mouth shut; the alcoholic head librarian; the gay couple who own a theater, above which the librarian lives.

On the surface, this is a war between Christian and not, conservative and liberal, strict belief and tolerance. Obviously, the author is the latter of the three. A twist, though, comes when the reader realizes that the librarian is just as intolerant as the parents. After all, they are not trying to imprint their beliefs on the rest of the world; they are simply raising their only son as best they know how. The librarian is the real threat here, as she strives to make sure the child believes as she does. Whether or not you agree with the gay issue, her behavior is what we stand against.

Another issue is the fact that the librarian is really not imprinted in the life of anyone else. She realizes this slowly as her friends don't miss her when she disappears, her landlord doesn't even realize she is gone, the man she thinks loves her has an entire life of which the boys knows, but she doesn't. She slowly realizes that she is but a ghost of a person.

Ian is eccentric and irritating. The librarian is neurotic (the fact that I can't even remember her name says it all). The parents are like cartoons characters in their stereotypical Russian roles. The best part of the book is the last three pages.

I would not recommend this one.

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