The Borrower, by Rebecca Makkai


Genre: General Fiction
Date Published: January 2011
Number Of Pages: 324 pages
Publisher: Viking

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Synopsis: 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 antigay 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 Rating:
★★★ 1/2
....For while it's not great literature, it's certainly creative literature


My Thoughts:
Creative literature.  Really sums this book up.  You won't be able to call this story amazing, nor can you call it a modern classic.  But at least you can say "it's creative".
I read this book for my local library book club (I seriously love this group--I'm the youngest one there, but it's such a well-organized club, with the discussion of the book often going overtime, that I really don't care that I'm the "kid" of the group).  Despite the luke-warm feelings for the novel, we had a really enlightening discussion about it, with the leading question being, "who is the borrower?"

I won't spoil the plot, but one borrower is clearly the author.  Readers might notice a distinct Mark Twain's The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn vibe laced throughout the story.  They will also recognize a lot of writing borrowed from various children's books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Good Night Moon, and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.  One can most certainly say that the writing style is very creatively linking itself to the title of the book, without being completely unoriginal.

Despite the imaginative writing, I can't love this book.  I really wasn't impressed by the protagonist Lucy, although after discussing this with the book club, I can see why the author chose to write her that way (hint: Lucy's behavior is reminiscent of someone just "drifting down the river", letting the metaphorical river choose the path for her.  Like Huckleberry Finn.  Get it?)  As someone in my book group pointed out, the secondary characters were more likable and had more definition.

The plot wasn't the most amazing either.  It seemed a little too meandering, but once again, you need to relate it to Mark Twain's classic, then you can really appreciate it as is.

Overall, this is a decent and fun story, and most certainly worth a look.  I should warn all librarians that you will take issue with certain parts of this read, but if you suspend reality for a short time, it is a fun and inventive novel that takes on the issue of reading censorship and conversion camps.  I'd recommend it.


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