The Borrower – Rebecca Makkai

This debut novel has all the ingredients which usually make a book irresistible for me – take one children’s librarian, add one ten year old boy who loves the books his God fearing parents hate, stir in a road trip and sprinkle with references to classic children’s literature and voila….well, unfortunately the result was more of a sunken souffle for me. 

The story opens well with our narrator, Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, taking an interest in the well-being of her most regular customer, 10 year old Ian Drake.  In the course of guiding this avid reader towards the best of children’s literature, Lucy discovers that Ian’s very religious mother has enrolled him in anti-gay classes run by Pastor Bob.  Her hand is forced when she discovers Ian camping out in the library and they find themselves on the run in an eventful road trip from Missouri to Vermont.

There is some confusion as to who has “abducted” who.  Ian is the arch-manipulator, playing Lucy in the way a child can, turning on the tears, changing the subject but Lucy is so easily “played” she lost all credibility for me.  There are lots of weird and wonderful characters including Lucy’s Russian immigrant father with his shady past and plenty of amusing incidents from ferrets to the sinister figure who stalks Lucy and Ian.

Although it has glimmers of brilliance, The Borrower, left me unsatisfied and slightly disappointed.  I felt left behind and didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters.  It seems to be a marmite book though and will provide plenty of discussion for book groups.

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3 Comments

  1. Jackie says:

    I’m sorry to hear that this didn’t bowl you over. A few people were raving about the sound of this book, but I notice that no glowing reviews have yet to appear for the entire book (at least in my blogroll) I plan to try this at some point and I hope the “glimmers of brilliance” out weigh the problems for me.

  2. admin says:

    Well, they can’t all bowl me over, I guess, Jackie, or life would become rather dull. ;-) It probably disappointed me more as the ingredients all appealed enormously to me but somehow the finished dish tasted rather bland.

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