Read The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai Online


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 smugglIn 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 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?...

Title : The Borrower
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780099538127
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 324 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Borrower Reviews

  • Elaine Lincoln
    2019-02-10 11:50

    Well I'll be honest: I joined Goodreads just so I could review this book. It is one of those ones that makes you want to grab strangers on the street and force them to read it while you watch their face to see their reaction. But more about that in a minute...I do read reviews on Goodreads from time to time, usually after I finish a book (oddly), and two things were bothering me about the responses to this book, and I felt compelled to respond to them. It seems I had to join to do that! First, it's odd to see so much moral judgment of a character in a book where the very first line is "I might be the villain of this story." It's almost as if other readers have conflated the author with the narrator, and figure that if in the end the narrator is culpable then it must have failed as a book. How very strange a response. I'd love to see these same readers' responses to Crime and Punishment! Let's give the author a little credit here: if she'd wanted to make this a clear moral case, it would have been so easy (maybe too easy) to do that. Instead she chose to make her narrator just as flawed as Ian's parents, and that's what makes it a great story. (I've been troubled in recent years by the obsession with "likability", people demanding that their characters make good choices or become better people in the book, but I digress.)Secondly, as a retired school librarian, I need to say this to the librarians on here saying they refuse to like the book because Lucy doesn't have an MLIS: first of all, there ABSOLUTELY ARE libraries, way out in the cornfields, where someone could end up in even an administrative position with nothing more than a BA. I even know of two different public libraries where the "head librarian" (argue if you will about whether that should be her title) has no MLS. To me, this was sufficiently explained in the book by the boss being drunk and not caring, and being in crisis over losing her children's librarian to cancer when Lucy's resume showed up in her mailbox, and in a very small, isolated town. it seemed fully in character. This is not a real person who took a job away from a real qualified librarian, for pete's sake. But REGARDLESS of all that: who in the hell cares? My husband was a surgeon for forty years, and if he dismissed out of hand every TV show, movie and book that didn't play true to life on medical details, he'd never have enjoyed anything. This is a book that every politician in Washington should be forced to read before they even dream of cutting library funding. This is a book that is a love letter to libraries, and librarians who quibble over the little details are missing the point. And back to my main point: this is an amazing book. It's very of-the-moment, with Michelle Bachmann's "reparative therapy" business in the headlines, and it's a book that every PFLAG member, every school guidance counselor, every gay adolescent should read. And everyone else, too.

  • Jill
    2019-01-23 05:50

    Let me say it straight out: this book isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Those who cherry-pick the Bible – who ignore the parts that say “you can’t ever eat pork or shellfish, and women should cover their heads, and you can’t plant two crops in the same field”, yet laser in on two little verses that may or may not imply that God doesn’t like gays – will likely be offended.Certainly, the existence of those who believe not in absolute rights but in their particular absolute right offends the protagonist, Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian. Her heart goes out to her favorite patron, a young 10-year-old boy named Ian Drake who is likely gay. His uptight mother, rather than accepting him as he is, promotes a strong anti-gay, evangelist agenda, wanting him only to read books with “the breath of God”. When Lucy finds him camped out in the library after hours, she makes a split-second decision: she spirits him away from his parents and finds herself on the lam on an improvised road trip to Chicago and points east.It is here that I felt the book goes temporarily off course. If this were not a parable but a story about flesh-and-blood people, surely Lucy would understand the ramifications of leaving abducting a young child. And certainly she would quake at the consequences of such an action and seriously consider what she was doing. Her motivation – or should I say, lack thereof -- for such a bold move nearly derailed my reading experience. Fortunately, I stuck with it and discovered the book was less about Ian’s own journey toward his coming-of-age intellectual awakening than Lucy’s. Lucy – the daughter of a Russian Mafia father – has lived with illusions her whole life. As she finds out, everything is not so black-and-white in one’s personal history.And along the way, she learns that there is also no happy ending in many cases. Lucy runs head on into her own sense of hubris when she reflects on her key goal in fleeing with Ian: “There was a picture from somewhere of a place I would take him, maybe a place from a book: a white-walled, sunny house where people took care of children…” Yet as she discovers, “I had failed to understand that the reason you can’t change who you are is that you can’t change where you’re from.”There are some delightful plot twists and some implausible ones. The characters can be engaging…at times, infuriating…and in at least one case, superfluous. The theme, though, remains constant: we cannot lazily rely on accepted platitudes or religious homilies. Instead, we need to be mindful of our journey of self-discovery… and sometimes, that journey takes us back to a place called home. I applaud the author for taking on such an emotionally charged topic. (3.75)

  • Laura
    2019-01-24 11:30

    Oh, where to start? I just couldn't buy into the premise no matter how much I really tried. When you have a book that essentially a two-hander, you need to like both characters - Lucy just irritated me too much for that to happen. Which is too bad because the book parodies and games are charming.Lucy is the head children's librarian at a small public library in Missouri, reporting to an alcoholic director, living over a small theatre, and no real direction in life. One of the children that comes into her space is Ian, a voracious reader. Unfortunately, Ian's family is some flavor of evangelical and his mother comes down to the children's area demanding that he not be allowed to borrow books that didn't have "the breath of God" in them (the paranormal, for example, including classics like Tuck Everlasting). Ian rebels by hiding the books he's borrowing, and Lucy abets by checking them out under her own name.Lucy and her friends Sophie and Rocky suspect that Ian is gay, and when Lucy learns that Ian is being sent to a sexual rehabilitation camp, she's eager to do something to help him escape what she now feels is a horrible, abusive home. One day her chance arrives: Ian's run away, much like Claudia and Jamie do, only he's hidden in the library instead of the Met. For reasons that elude Lucy (and the reader) she decides to "take him home", a trip that ends up in Vermont, near the Candaian border. She also lies about her whereabouts, who Ian is, and where she's going/what she's doing. There's much here to delight ("If You Give a Librarian a Closet", for example), but Lucy's motivations bothered me, as did her demeanor. I'm not going to get into the argument over her even being a librarian (she doesn't have her MLS, nor is she in library school) or her feeling that the First Amendment trumps all (even the Second Amendment). It was more her certitude that she was saving Ian - who clearly wanted an adventure but seemed to not see that he needed "saving", per se - and her clumsy handling of how to save him, in addition to her eagerness to believe in the power of story to the extent that (I think) she buys into the "kidnapping" because it's just another story. I'm sure I'll be alone in this, which is fine. ARC provided by publisher.

  • Julie Ekkers
    2019-02-19 06:37

    What a delightful book! It concerns a sort of listless librarian and her friendship--and sudden adventure--with a 10-year-old boy, who might be gay, to the horror of his very Christian parents. There are references to all kinds of children's books which all readers who were bookworms as children will have fun recognizing and remembering. What I loved most about this book is the manner in which it pays homage to those formative reading experiences, and acknowledges that for many of us, books contain truths around which we can shape and live our lives, as much as a religion, or laws. As someone who grew up reading, seeking escape, solace, knowledge, and--unwittingly--a framework to make sense of her world, in books, I practically cheered reading the concluding pages of The Borrower. How fun it was to feel again that sense of, "Yes! Me, too! I have felt that way exactly!" I find it doesn't happen as often as an adult reader, but it's just as thrilling when it does.

  • Robin
    2019-02-05 07:37

    Reading The Borrower is like having a long sit-down with an old friend, full of asides and references you're supposed to know. It's great!I could pick this book apart, if I wanted to: Lucy is not a believable character: She's super-smart, but has no career plans, gorgeous, but doesn't date or have friends, "falls into" a job that requires an advanced degree she doesn't have, and allows herself to be led into a criminal act by a ten year old boy.BUTIt is a fantastically enjoyable read. Makkai gives a great turn of phrase, and the book is fun! At the same time, it's about the fictions we allow ourselves to believe about ourselves and just about everyone else we meet, and how that keeps us apart.Passages I want to remember:"Excepting the books, I never liked to amass more possessions than could be moved in a cartop U-Haul. You never know when the Cossacks are going to invade." (p.31)"In a library in Missouri that was covered with vinesLived thousands of books in a hundred straight linesA boy came in at half past nineEvery Saturday, rain or shineHis book selections were clan-des-tine." (p. 35)"Too Much Tequila, by Margaret Wise Brown. The Very Obvious Nose Job, by Eric Carle." (p. 59)"I'd watched The Music Man enough times as a child to be wary of smiling musicians. The way they waltz into your library singing, swinging that con man briefcase and telling you to be spontaneous. They tell you this town could be saved with a little luck and a good marching band." (p.68)I do crazy miss being a children's librarian.

  • Nicholas
    2019-02-15 10:23

    Here's the first thing that people should understand about The Borrower: it's not realistic. Here's the second: that doesn't matter. Allow yourself to go with it for a moment before condemning Lucy for driving away from Hannibal, Missouri with Ian Drake, or doubting that she would do it in the first place. I just don't feel that author Rebecca Makkai was expecting us to believe that any 26 year-old librarian would go on a week-long secret road trip with a 10 year-old child, even one whose parents were trying to de-gay him through a weird Christian boys camp sponsored by ex-gay Pastor Bob. If this is about "real life," then the kidnaping strains credulity, as do a number of elements of the plot. I'm not saying that the novel is "fantasy" or "science fiction," for it is set in our world, but it is part of a genre of novels whose characters aren't quite believable as truly walking among us. And yet that's just not a problem. If you can get over whether or not the book is "realistic" or "possible," then you get to experience the wonders of Lucy and Ian together, two confirmed bibliophiles who are saved by books and revel in what fiction can do for them. And that, it seems to me, is the real message of this really touching novel: books are transformative. Especially for those of us who don't fit in, aren't popular, and had a harder time of it as kids (and beyond), fiction is powerful, wonderful stuff. And it need not be "realistic" in order to be good.

  • Elaine
    2019-02-03 11:36

    This started out wonderfully. I was immediately drawn the liberal librarian and the winsome boy whom she sneaks books to, books his parents obect to, but which are children's classics. The librarian's rationale is that the boy wants to read those books and she is not a censor. The ethical and moral issues here are never worked out. Do parents have the right to judge what books are suitable for their children? Do parents have the right to decide what religious beliefs their children should hold? Apparently not, since the parents are presented as unlikable tyrants. The librarian who goes against their wishes is portrayed sympathetically. Actually, ethical, moral, and, ultimately, legal issues abound in this book, which is what kept me reading. At the end, Makkai seems to suggest that people who meddle, but who are on the "right" side of the fence, may be as guilty of playing with someone's life as those who are on the "wrong" side. Most readers will detest Ian's bigoted mother and Parson Bob, the anti-gay crusader, but Lucy's intervention doesn't square with Ian's beliefs, and what she does to "save" him is reprehensible in my opinion. What was she saving him from? To what lengths will she go to save him? The plot finally fizzles out. Nothing is resolved. Nothing is changed, as far as I could see. Thhe very real ethical issues raised are not resolved.The second half of this novel is an on-the-lam road trip. This should have been exciting, especially considering what went before. Makkai has drawn several memorable and interesting characters and portrays their activities with wit and vivid vignettes. So, I found myself slogging through the road trip, thinking it would get better. It didn't. It wasn't a bit believable. We learn nothing new about our heroine or about Ian. Journeys are usually written into novels to show character development. This one showed nothing except, perhaps, that the FBI and the police are mighty casual about an ostensibly kidnapped child. Makkai has talent. That shows in the first half of the novel, but the road trip is written in a very pedestrian manner, and the ending is unconvincing, at least to me.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2019-02-18 08:23

    Debut novelist and elementary schoolteacher Rebecca Makkai combines a wily, madcap road trip with socially poignant conundrums and multiple themes in this coming-of-age story about a twenty-six-year-old children's librarian, Lucy Hull, and a ten-year-old precocious book lover, Ian Drake, in fictional Hanibal, Missouri. (Guess who is coming-of-age? Answer: not so evident.)Lucy isn't entirely sure that she's a reliable narrator--part of our reading pleasure is to figure that out. She tells us in the enigmatic prologue "I'm not the hero of this story." Is she the villain? And, if she is not the hero, who is? The answers turn out to be thoughtfully complex and yet exquisitely simple for those of us--and only for those of us--whose love of reading is almost religious (upside down pun there).Lucy has been sneaking laudable books to Ian, whose evangelical, anorexic mother, Janet, will only allow him to read books "with the breath of God in them." No books with content matter related to magic, witchcraft, wizardry, the occult, weaponry, adult content matter, evolution, or Halloween. No authors/books that question authority and explore complicated issues, or that have morally ambiguous themes. Oh, or contain a "sensitive" male character.Janet has enrolled her son in the Glad Heart Ministries youth group with Pastor Bob, in order to de-gayify her son for his proto-gay behaviors. Pastor Bob is a "former" homosexual married to a "cured" once-upon-a-time lesbian, who believes that "sexuality is a choice, not an identity." His goal is to "speak to our children before the secular media has reached them with its political agenda." It makes your hair stand up and splits your ends.One morning, when Lucy opens the library, she discovers that Ian has been camped out there all night. This sets the stage for the fugitive scene--adult and child on the lam, playing spontaneous road trip games and mimicking passages of children's books. (OK, the reader needs to suspend a little judgment here on how Ian maneuvers this, but this is fiction, so waive a little realism for a little magic, capisce?).Lucy, as it turns out, has some, ahem... issues. A Chicago-raised Mount Holyoke graduate with a Russian émigré father and Jewish-American mother, she has a predilection for flight and self-flagellation. Her dad was a revolutionary, and his shady business dealings and questionable money sources have been a cause of discomfort all of Lucy's life. It seems she also has a knack for prevaricating. And indolence. Her adult decisions have, up to this time, been aimed at not taking action in her life, other than putting distance between her and her parents. She's "a would-be revolutionary stuck at a desk."As Lucy and Ian cross state line after state line, she has moments of doubt and dread about her hapless journey with a juvenile. Although she tries to remind herself that Ian maneuvered this odyssey, she acknowledges her complicity. Lucy wants to save Ian from the clutches of religiosity. She impugns Janet Drake for wanting to censor a highly intelligent boy's mettle. But is she trying to censor the censor? She has doubts. But the voice of her insurrectionist father vexes her.There are flaws, admittedly. Yet, they are easy to ignore when trumped by the nimble narrative and crack characterizations. Librarians beware--Lucy doesn't have her Masters of Library Science. And, as mentioned above, the inadvertent "kidnapping" scene raises a few eyebrows of believability.But this beguiling story captivates, nonetheless. Ian and Lucy have a tart, biting relationship rather than a sentimental, precious one. Additionally, Makkai deftly weaves in children's literary lore, including THE WIZARD OF OZ, MADELINE, CHARLOTTE'S WEB, and many others, bolstering the narrative. Moreover, Lucy's subversive deeds in the name of social liberty are ripe and riveting. Makkai pushes the envelope, and the reader may wonder if the story will wax pedantic, but the author doesn't disappoint with easy answers; she doesn't manipulate Lucy's rant into her personal crusade.THE BORROWER appeals, inevitably, to the ardent reader whose love of books starts with the mind but voyages to the soul. It is a journey of self-discovery and sanctuary, finding home wherever you are, and having the courage to face your future.

  • Kim
    2019-01-23 09:53

    This author can NOT be a parent, first of all. To create this kind of storyline...However her character (can't recall her name now)obtained this 10 year old boy purposefully or not - just the fact that she didn't call his parents from moment ONE makes me feel like jail is a proper sentence for her. As a mom, I would have had an AGONIZING week wondering what kind of perv or loon had my kid; along with all kinds of horrendous images. Unforgivable. was suggested in the beginning that the parents were in some way abusive? There was a very negative image presented of the parents. As the story went along, I realized that - unless I missed something big - the issues given regarding the mother were that 1.She wanted to ensure her 10 year old was reading appropriate books (christian oriented to complement the family values) & 2.She had enrolled her son in a religious class dealing with self actualization, thinking it may be possible that the boy was gay & if so, the class should prevent it. This right here just gets me on SOOO many levels - First, HE'S TEN YEARS OLD! How could you possibly make those kind of assumptions about a child? He was a smart kid, kinda geeky maybe, didn't relate well to kids his age...that kind of thing. So what? Where do you get gay from that?? AND THEN...who does this librarian think she is to decide that if he WERE gay - she knows the correct and BETTER way to handle it than the parents. She questions him about the 'self-actualization' class he took at the church & there was not one thing in the experiences he related to make me think that it was in ANY way inappropriate. He was absolutely clueless to the message it was that she was trying to convey when she told him the class & the church were wrong in their way of thinking & he should just ignore that & be 'who he is' because these are things you cannot change. And her expertise dealing with such issues is - WHAT?? - to make it in ANY way appropriate for her to have been involved in ANY way at all, much less kidnapping the kid to tell him that being gay is okay.My point is that parents have the right to parent according to their values. There are so many children with parents who don't care if their kids ate for the day, much less pay attention to what books they're checking out at the library. This was certainly not a case of abuse or anything remotely similar to that. This was a case of an author who has some kind of beef with Christianity & set out to create an appearance of Christian parents as overprotecting bullies who don't agree with her line of liberal thinking. Look, I'm not a religious fanatic, I rarely even go to church; but this just has me STEAMING. As a former social worker, I've seen REAL abuse/neglect cases. Overbearing parents may not be perfect but they're CERTAINLY preferable to those who take no (or negative) notice of their kids!I really didn't realize this book affected me to this degree until I started ranting on this review. I felt better that in the end the main character admitted her inability to become a parent herself and sort of acknowledged the experience she helped put those poor parents through for over a week. To me, this was just a silly attempt to make the author's liberal views known - hoping to hijack my feelings and achieve a 'feel sorry for the poor forced Christian kid' as a tactic to see it her way. Uh-uh. Quite obviously worked the opposite on me! Putting two sentences together & having the ability to make it sound pretty okay - does NOT an author make. WHO published this anyway?

  • Darby Zimmerman
    2019-01-23 08:48

    This book will have its detractors, and I imagine that most of them will have missed the sort of tongue-in-cheek, this-didn't-really-happen aspect of the book. (Once the narrator tells you that you're supposed to call the town Hannibal, Missouri but that it's not really Hannibal, Missouri, and then confesses twenty pages in that she's already lied to you, I think all protestations of a story being unrealistic are null and void.) Lucy is an unreliable narrator -- my favorite kind -- and she takes you along on a very uncomfortable ride. Lucy sort of kidnaps a child, or is kidnapped by him, depending on how you look at it. Makkai could have made this a much more clear-cut case, and we'd have been more naturally sympathetic to the narrator, but I think it's to her credit that she didn't. This book is weirdly post-modern, and not just in its borrowing of other texts, but in the way it yanks you around and makes you question what's even going on to begin with. Overall, one of the best debuts I've read in a really long time. And -- I never say this, but I mean it in the best possilbe way, forgive me literary people -- it would make a hell of a movie.

  • Jojo
    2019-02-08 05:37

    Oh how I wanted to love this book! It has so many things that I adore: libraries, quirkiness, a book reference on almost every page, a journey, a possibly-gay 10 year-old boy, various unrequited loves...The book turned out to be grounded more in farce than in reality, which would have been ok except that the protagonist was so dull you couldn't really root for her, and in a farce, you need to have some attachment to the main character in order to swallow all the unrealistic situations and coincidences. Also (this is not a spoiler but the main idea of the book) she kidnaps a child!! She kidnaps a child!!! She. Kidnaps. A. Child. I don't care how bad she thinks his home life is, she should not have kidnapped the child.This book does a disservice to real librarians who work hard to get their MLS degrees, since Lucy Hull just plods her way into a job that actually requires some expertise. I don't even want to get into the gay-kid aspect of the novel. It hits too close to home for me. Ian may or may not be gay (the only reason he may be is because some adults think he is; that wasn't reason enough for me to buy into it. What, he's a voracious reader, has a soft voice and likes to sing? Most of the boys I know who fit that description are straight.) The fundamentalist Christian aspect was, I think, handled more realistically.And as long as I'm ripping this book a new one, can I just say---and I don't think this is petty---the Hush Puppy dog is a Bassett hound, not a beagle. She keeps calling it a beagle!! I kept waiting for someone to correct her---Glenn or Ian---but no one did, and I can only assume that this point slipped past a bunch of people as the book was being readied for publication. What the hell. I hated the ending, which really made me lose respect for the book. I might have been able to deal with all of the other stuff because I did love the literary references, the parodies, and the basic idea of the story. But the string of coincidences at the end were just silly. I wanted some triumph for Ian; I put so much time into making sure he was ok. Two and a half stars. I just can't round it up to three because I felt the pacing was off: started out ok and then just dragged. They spent so much time at their final destination, time that didn't need to be spent, that I almost started to hate what is actually one of my very favorite states.

  • Kristin
    2019-01-29 04:46

    But books, on the other hand: I do still believe that books can save you. ...and because I knew the people books had saved. They were college professors and actors and scientists and poets. They got to college and sat on dorm floors drinking coffee, amazed they'd finally found their soul mates. They always dressed a little out of season. Their names were enshrined on the pink cards in the pockets of all the forgotten hardbacks in every library basement in America. If the librarians were lazy enough or nostalgic enough or smart enough, those names would stay there forever. (pg. 320)

  • Kathrina
    2019-02-11 04:25

    I finished this book almost two weeks ago, but I've struggled in how to write this review. This book was a personal treasure to me, and writing my thoughts on it feel almost too intimate, too vulnerable, to bare to the world. And that's strange to me, because this is not high literature, no one will be studying this in a classroom, and it likely will never be a bestseller, but it spoke to me, or maybe echoed to me, all the things I try to say about what drives me and what I want to do with my life. We are all on this planet for a reason, or it helps to think we are, and my reason is to be the kidnapping librarian. The narrator, Lucy, is scatterbrained and self-doubting, uncertain of the values she's inherited and infuriated by the values she's confronted with that aim to block and submerge any sense of self-awareness. But she's certain that a reading life opens doors we didn't even know were blocking the view, and if she can pass on anything at all, it is that knowledge, that there are worlds and beliefs and perceptions on the other side of the door. This urgent belief is framed inside a charming plot -- charming not in action, but in how Lucy chews through her thoughts and shares or doesn't share with her 11-year-old charge, Ian. By the end of this narrative we understand that this is only the beginning of the journey for Ian, and a difficult one it will be, but Lucy provides in the best way she knows how, by suggesting the titles that can see him through each year of young adulthood -- the books that will help him to see himself. What an awesome gift, and what a tribute to the work of all the best librarians, booksellers and English teachers. Isn't this why we do it? As inglorious as a kidnapping, shelving, stickering, endlessly recommending, reading the end it's nice to think we're busy mending souls.

  • Caren
    2019-02-20 10:52

    I wanted to read this book because the blurb said it was about a children's librarian. Well, that wasn't exactly true. The protagonist is a twenty-something college grad who happens to work in the children's section of a small town library, but she has not actually had any professional training (no masters degree, in other words).I couldn't see that she had had any prior experience of any kind with children, so one wonders how she landed this job. (There must have been a dearth of applicants and the pay must have been very low.) She does seem to have been very familiar with children's books. In fact, I really enjoyed the little bits of doggerel written in the style of well-known children's classics which appear throughout the book. Somehow, I couldn't really sympathize with Lucy. In fact, she drove me crazy with her ill-thought-out jumping from one plan of action to another. Was the author trying to hint at her immaturity? She was also extremely strident in her viewpoints. I don't know---I somehow found her quite irritating. The young patron she befriends, Ian, was also somewhat irritating to me. Oh heck, the whole book was a disappointment. I'll leave it at that.

  • Vonia
    2019-02-12 03:34

    Where to begin? I loved it! Makkai & I would, no doubt, have been kindred spirits in grade school, reading at recess, going to the library after school, hiding by the night light after hours... Every single time I believed The Borrower could not be more reflective of my childhood reads, another of my favorite titles was mentioned. On page 275, when William DuBois's The 21 Balloons was finally mentioned, I am almost embarrassed to admit how estatic I was. Almost. There are only two titles to which I hold Makkai accountable for not mentioning and/or referencing: Ella Enchanted & The Giver. Maybe Harold & The Purple Crayon, but that is, in her defense, a younger age bracket than what was being discussed within the context of the story.

  • Kassel
    2019-02-15 11:30

    Forget that that the book is decidedly liberal. Forget that it's anti-George Dubya Bush. Forget that it's pretty much anti-evangelical. A librarian should not be so obsessed with a 10-year-old boy and her infatuation with the boy starts the book out on the creepy foot. Everyone has decided from the get-go that poor 10-year-old Ian Drake is bound to become some kind of homosexual including his parents. So Ian goes to anti-gay classes and Russian-American librarian Lucy Hull (Hulkinov) wants to SAVE Ian!Problem is, Lucy's not a very interesting character. She tries to convince us she is, but she's really not. (I finished the book only because it was a book club selection.) Lucy's obsession with Ian, however, hits a high point when she and Ian hit the road from Hannibal, Missouri and drive across the country to Vermont with stops in Chicago and Pittsburgh. They somehow kidnap each other except what happens along the way isn't really all that interesting. Somewhat interesting characters like Glenn, Lucy's sort-of boyfriend, and Rocky Walters (readers are unsure of Lucy's romantic status with him) are dropped in, only to be disposed of thoughtlessly by the end of the book. To be honest, I wasn't sure what Glenn added to the story except for a twist during one scene.Lucy makes it all the way to Vermont with Ian and how will she and Ian get back to Missouri? Well, she put him on a Greyhound bus with some reliable, former ex-KGB operative. Lucy, however, decides to hightail it back to Chicago where her parents live and loaf around for a while, leaving her job in Hannibal as a children's librarian. Lucy learns she can't change Ian, and I think the road trip was a symbolic journey that was supposed to change her, and it somewhat does, but as a reader, I don't care. I am not invested in Lucy. Her father is an interesting character, but Lucy herself is not as interesting. I guess this is a long enough review. There were some good parts to the book (I'd give it 2.5 stars), but the ending was disappointing to me, especially since Lucy technically didn't have to own up to anything or face any consequences for her actions. (The beginning didn't capture me either.) It might have made for a more interesting book if she'd confronted Ian's parents, but that's just me.

  • Cody
    2019-01-26 09:35

    In general: I really enjoyed Rebecca Makkai's style of writing. She did not follow the main-stream, continuous, and often stuffy structure. Instead, she opted for a more stream of consciousness set-up that established a more direct connection with me. Breaking away from the narrative to inject humor and wit by adding lists and diagrams absolutely cracked me up. I very much look forward to reading her upcoming work as I honestly felt connected and engaged to her as an author. Subject matter: It was refreshing to get the take on a gay issue from the perspective of a strong-willed straight female narrator. Gay literature tends to be extreme; either essentially erotica or snooty, uppity literature that prides itself on being so droll and witty. This novel casts no such aspersions; it's genuine in its heart. Speaking of which, it's difficult for me to engage in literature that I can't relate to in some way. I've noticed a lot of novels are about women who are losing their mind...not so into that. What I took out of it: Mainly, I got out of it that sure, you can go off on this whirlwind adventure attempting to "save" a kid from pain and suffering, but at the end of the day, you can't change someone's home/ family. Running away from your problems isn't going to solve them. (Dorothy Gale much?) There will always be parents even if one cuts communication off from them. As the person in the situation, it's going to take time to grow and mature. Lucy was expecting an epiphany from Ian. A ten-year old needs to figure stuff out, not necessarily be told. As an outsider to these kinds of situations, despite being frustrating and even painful to watch, one just always has to provide help in any way they can, but rash, unplanned, undirected action really won't solve anything. It's just movement, not progress. It is however necessary sometimes to break out of the routine and reveal new truths.At least that's what I got out of it.

  • Paula Lyle
    2019-01-26 11:31

    A librarian and a boy on the run. When I read the reviews on this book, they all seemed to imply a lighthearted caper, which confused me as it also seemed to be about a librarian who kidnaps a child. Now having finished it, I didn't find the book to be very light-hearted and it's not about a kidnapping. You can quibble about whether or not the story is realistic, but the deeper truth is one that anyone who works with children (I teach second grade) can identify with.There are children that you wish that you could take home with you. There are children whose families do not seem to understand what a treasure they have. There are children who you wish had better lifes or just different lifes. There are children that you think that you should save.But you can't.So you try to give them the skills to save themselves. You try to get them to see what a great resource they have within themselves. You try to lead them to books as a way to not only escape, but also to see that there is so much beyond what they know or can see.You hope that you helped, but you will probably never know.I loved this book and I know that I'll think about it for a long time to come.

  • Bill Khaemba
    2019-01-24 09:33

    Oh my God this was really good... I didn't expect to like that much :0 Full Review Soon

  • Blair
    2019-02-02 09:49

    Now and again, in between all the new books I read, I try to pick something older off my long-suffering to-read pile. I was quite surprised when I glanced over the blurb for The Borrower and found it described as 'delightful, funny and moving'. Somehow, in the five years it's been hovering around the fringes of my reading plan, I'd formed an impression of it as a dark story with transgressive elements. And the opening chapters only added to that – the first line is 'I might be the villain of this story'; immediately afterwards, the narrator compares herself to Humbert Humbert. This dramatic voice is, however, not sustained, and gives way to a softer tale of unlikely friendships and quirky misadventures.The Borrower was Rebecca Makkai's first novel. Its central character is Lucy Hull, a twentysomething children's librarian in a small Missouri town: 'I was four years out of college, had started biting my nails again, and was down to two adult friends.' Story Hour is the highlight of her job, and her favourite regular is Ian Drake, an enthusiastically bookish ten-year-old with a wild imagination. The trouble begins when Ian's evangelical mother comes to the library with a long list of themes he is not allowed to read about, including the likes of wizards, Halloween and evolution. Later, Lucy discovers Ian's family have also enrolled him in Bible classes run by a pastor notorious for his attempts to 'cure' what he calls 'Same-Sex Attraction Disorder'. When Ian runs away, Lucy attempts to take him home, but he misdirects her, and what unfolds after that is a sort of inadvertent kidnapping.There is something of the zany comedy about this novel, what with the eccentric Russian relatives, Lucy's cornball boyfriend turning up during the middle of the kidnapping-cum-road-trip, and the odd-couple bond between Lucy and Ian. The dichotomy between tone (touching, comic) and actual plot (adult taking someone else's child on the run) makes the narrative feel uneven; with that said, I found it very involving. A prologue that seems to give away the ending is often an irritating thing, but in this case it adds to the intrigue. I couldn't see how the scenario could possibly play out without Lucy ending up in prison, yet the prologue suggests she is indeed free – and still working as a librarian.While certainly not as good as Makkai's The Hundred Year House or her short story collection Music for Wartime, The Borrower is an entertaining novel, a story that keeps sparking interest without ever quite catching fire. There's also a deep, dark streak running through it – perhaps it's telling that the book it most reminded me of was the much more disturbing Lamb. And the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that the twee ending, wrapped up in a neat message about the power of reading, doesn't fit with the rest of the story at all.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

  • Holly
    2019-01-26 07:24

    We need more books with children's librarians as the main character! What a great concept. And the ending was perfect. I loved that I was reading this during a long car ride with lots of hotel stops (from Indiana to South Dakota), because the librarian is on a long car ride too, without knowing her destination or when the trip will be over. The other main character in the story, 10-year-old Ian, is great too--I can picture him perfectly: smart as a whip and funny and charming in many ways, but extremely annoying at times. I highly recommend this to all the librarians I know, plus my sister who is an honorary librarian.

  • Christian
    2019-02-12 03:34

    I found it really hard to connect to the characters in this book. Which was very disappointing. When I initially read the description for the book I was very moved by the idea of having a heartwarming story about a person trying to protect a young gay boy from his religious family and finding herself inadvertently kidnapping him. However, all the characters in the book were really 2-dimensional (and quite frankly annoying) and I found it impossible to to side with any of them. Ian, the little boy, was really never allowed to become a well rounded character who goes through his own journey in understanding the circumstances he was living in and finding who he wanted to be. He really just became a tool through which the main protagonist came to understand how lost she really felt in her own life. The journey they go through together was really all about her. At no point did I really feel she was doing what she did out of some nurturing need to protect the boy - all her decision were made for very selfish reasons. Not to mention that the plot really made it hard for me to escape into the world of the book and believe in the events that unfold. I really can't believe that people would be so dense so that there are no bigger ramifications that came from her kidnapping Ian. I was really let down by this book. I thought it could've been a very poignant story but the focus of the story was misplaced.

  • Edward Sullivan
    2019-02-10 11:53

    It's not every day you see a children's librarian as a protagonist in a novel. Clever and most enjoyable.

  • Kelda Giavaras
    2019-01-23 07:53

    This was such an enjoyable read. Likely the reason I found it so entertaining was due to the fact that I made several personal connections with the book. I taught for many years at the grade school level, and now I'm working in a public library. The connections that Makkai makes to children's literature are hilarious (setting her own verse to Good Night Moon, and The House that Jack Built, to name just two) as well as her knowledge of the maturity of a 10 year old boy, demonstrates how knowledgable she is about her topic. I really appreciated that. Was the entire story completely believable? Not necessarily. But I didn't even care about that. I thought the writing was excellent and I felt like I really knew each of the characters she shared with us. I can't imagine there would be a Children's Librarian, that wouldn't appreciate this. It was definitely worth my time and I highly recommend The Borrower. Thanks Rebecca Makkai. Well done!

  • Vicki
    2019-01-25 10:47

    Lucy Hull is a children's librarian, more or less by accident. She is the daughter of a Russian immigrant whom she suspects is a member of the Russian "mafia" in Chicago. The family has always had plenty of money, but her dad is kind of vague about where it comes from. As Lucy recalls how she got the job, she remembers that she was soon to graduate magna cum laude, but had given no thought to what she would do afterwards. Perplexed, the Career Counselor gives her a printout of the English Department alumni and suggests that Lucy use those connections to land a job. She doesn't want to accept her father's offers of assistance, so she begins at the first of the alphabet, emailing each of the listed alumni. As it happens, Loraine Best, class of '65, needs a children's librarian replacement fast, and isn't quibbling over the Master of Library Science degree. Lucy warmed quickly to the job and might have stayed on forever, but for one of her favorite patrons, Ian Drake. A 10 year old almost daily visitor to the library, he stood out because of his unique behavior and his precocious reading habits. Even Loraine, the Head Librarian, refers to him as "that little homosexual boy." Lucy becomes concerned when she meets Ian's mother, who comes into the Children's department with a list of forbidden topics and titles for Ian. Ms. Drake acknowledges that Ian loves the library, "but what he really needs right now are books with the breath of God in them." When Ian gives Ms. Hull an origami baby Jesus at Christmas, she displays it on her desk for a week and then unfolds it to place in the shredder. At this point she realizes it is a printout of an email Ian's mom has written to a ministry dedicated to salvaging sexually confused children. Lucy is appalled. Though she realizes this was never meant for her eyes, she becomes very concerned about what damage could be done to this child in the name of religion. When Ian "runs away" the following March it is to the library, and Lucy discovers him when she opens up the next morning. She is sympathetic, but knows she must return him to his parents. At first he balks, but once in the car, Ian's detailed directions take them to a lovely home in a nice neighborhood. But just as Ian is preparing to get out, the homeowner steps out to get the paper and Lucy knows that is not Ian's dad. She drives on, still torn about where to go or what to do. Before she knows it they have driven out of town, following Ian's imaginative directions. She is not sure who is kidnapping whom (but she does know who is driving and how it will read in the police report)!This is the story of their road trip, which Ian seems to thoroughly enjoy while Lucy experiences increasing angst, knowing this cannot possibly end well for her, yet wanting to protect Ian even more than she wants to save herself. In spite of the serious ethical issues that rise in this story, the book contains lots of humor and tons of allusions to children's literature in every chapter, if not on every page. Lucy learns a lot about herself, her dad and her roots. Ms. Makkai is a clever story teller and peoples this tale with interesting and creatively drawn characters that are a pleasure to come to know.I expect you'll enjoy the entire book, but the ending is creative and unexpected (by me, at least,) and will have you thinking about this story for quite awhile after you put the book down, I'm thinking.

  • Sarah
    2019-02-15 10:36

    As a youth serving librarian myself, the first part of this story, following Lucy's life as a Children's Librarian ring alternately uncomfortably true and annoyingly, inaccurately stereotypical. However, it was refreshing to see someone document the often overlooked relationship between librarians and the youth for whom they're often the most reliable and caring adult. Whether working in an urban setting, or a small town like Lucy, all of us have had an Ian Drake, the 10year-old protagonist in this tale, who desperately needs to be saved. Whether their being abused, neglected, or in Ian's case, Evangelically brainwashed out of their burgeoning sexual orientation, we're often powerless to do more than be a listening ear, a recommendation of resiliency building books and programs and a connector to agencies with more teeth. Thankfully, Ian takes matters into his own hands, when he runs away from home and into the library where events transpire to lead Ian and Lucy to kidnap each other and embark on a road trip across the country. Along the way there are humorous moments with Lucy's Russian father and his suspect business partners, family friends with ferrets and the observations of a very creative 10year-old boy. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of whining. Lucy's not particularly likeable. Sure this is a bit of a post college bildungsroman, but that's a bit annoying in it's self, the self-indulgent ramblings of a trust fund baby who can afford to feel self-congratulatory about not taking daddy's money. She dates a man she doesn't particularly like from the moment she meets him, and mocks him behind his back. Her response when she learns that her best friend's wheel chair is due to his actions as a war hero, is to whine that he should have told her? Seriously. Get over yourself. The ending is rather pathetic too, with Lucy playing the role of Tom Sawyer to Ian's Huck, or Jim for that matter and then whining about her fate. The little picture book inspired inserts are a fun touch, and librarians will no doubt keep checking it out and recommending it since it contains one of their own, but overall I felt like a went for a long ride and ended up nowhere.

  • Amy
    2019-02-05 08:40

    Lucy is a children's librarian in a small town in Missouri. She grows attached to a 10 year old patron named Ian, who is addicted to reading but has to sneak books past his evangelical parents. She learns that his parents have enrolled him in weekly anti-gay classes to combat his emerging flamboyance, so besides just helping him smuggle books past his parents, she is determined to communicate to him that some aspects of who we are aren't choices and can't be changed. Her involvement with Ian escalates when she comes into work early one morning to find him camped out in the children's room. At first, Lucy knows that she must try to return Ian to his parents, but through a series of hazy decisions and blackmail on Ian's part, they end up on a cross-country road trip together. In the course of the trip, Lucy learns a fair amount about her own family history and has to grapple with new truths that come to light. But most importantly, she tries to imbue Ian with a sense of self-acceptance that will stand up against the misguided ideals of his parents and church leaders. They end up all the way in Vermont, with Ian deciding that he is ready to go home because he wants to audition for the spring play at school. Lucy is certain that his return to Hannibal will be the beginning of a jail sentence for her, but with the help of her father and his Russian mafia connections, Ian is returned without her being implicated. After his return, Lucy learns that his parents have started to homeschool him, which presumably means that they are stepping up their evangelical brainwashing. Fearing that because of her, Ian is worse off than he was to begin with, Lucy figures out a way to smuggle him reading lists for the next 8 years of his life - books to keep him afloat until he can escape from his parents. Lucy, herself, starts a new life in a new town, and is kept afloat by the belief that books can save people, and they will surely save Ian.This was one of those books I didn't want to end because I loved it so much! BOOKS SAVE!!

  • Catherine
    2019-01-26 07:51

    I'm still trying to sort out exactly how I feel about this book, but I think I can safely say that it's amazing. Lucy is a 26-year-old coasting through life -- her job as a children's librarian is the result of an alumni connection and her only friend is another library employee who is apparently in love with her. Her only goal in life is to not be like her father, a Russian immigrant with obvious underworld ties. She's likable and relatable, although I wanted to shake her many times, sometimes for her lack of motivation and sometimes because of her lack of restraint. The premise of the book is that Ian, one of the library's young patrons, runs away from home and then persuades/forces Lucy to take him on a cross-country trip. Of course, there's more to the story than that. Lucy has already come under fire from Ian's fundamentalist Christian mother for giving the boy books that do not contain "the breath of God," and she's discovered that Ian is enrolled in anti-gay classes. As Lucy's poor (albeit well-intentioned) choices snowball out of control, she learns new things about her own family and friends that make her question many of her assumptions about her life. You know from the beginning that everything won't turn out well. If common sense doesn't dictate that, the prologue gives a good clue. And yet, this book was impossible for me to put down. I had to see it to it's final, painful (although not completely hopeless) conclusion. The story in itself is excellent and thought-provoking. What pushes this book over the top is all the literary references, from Nabokov allusions to emulations of various well-loved children's books: If You Give a Librarian a Closet, an untitled addition which could be called "The Very Hungry Librarian", etc.

  • Alex Templeton
    2019-02-02 08:26

    3.5 stars, really. I was immediately taken by Makkai's narrator: a mid twenty-something who works as a children's librarian at a small Midwestern library. As a book geek and especially a children's book geek, I adored all of the references to famous works of children's literature that peppered the book. I expected great things from the premise: Lucy (the librarian) discovers that one of her favorite charges, Ian, has run away from home and is camping in the library. Ian's parents have recently been sending him to evangelical Christian classes designed to re-educate (or pre-educate, as the case may be) kids not to be gay. Lucy is appalled, and on the strength of these feelings sort of kidnaps Ian (I say sort of because he is not unwilling to go with her) and goes with him on an aimless road trip to try and save him from his parents. Meanwhile, she ends up discovering some things about her own family history and herself. It was this part of the novel that didn't resonate with me so much. I'm not sure if it's just that I can't relate to Lucy's experience or what, but while she ended up going somewhere significant psychologically, I wasn't quite able to go along with her emotionally. I felt detached from her experience, and a little bit like it wasn't quite enough for its setup. I did admire the end of the novel, which not only wasn't what I expected, but did not try to tie everything up in a comforting bow. Whatever my reservations, I think this is still a worthy read for literature lovers, both those who enjoy good literary fiction and those who just adore those books they read when they were young.

  • Amy
    2019-01-28 07:51

    As a librarian I find it nearly impossible to pass up on a book that is about books and the love of reading, and to find on that actually features a librarian in the lead role, well that is the perfect read for me! The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai’s debut novel sounds a bit outrageous, but it is actually a very heartfelt, delightful novel. Lucy Hull is a young children’s librarian working in a small library in Missouri. Although she did not intend to become a librarian, she enjoys her work and has formed a special bond with one of her young patrons, ten year old Ian Drake. Ian is a voracious reader, and a little flamboyant. Unfortunately Ian’s parents are extremely religious and begin censoring Ian’s reading material, excluding most of the children’s room canon. Ian’s ostentatious nature also has his parents concerned about his sexuality, to the extent that they enroll him in special classes to ensure his masculinity. When Lucy stumbles on Ian “camping out” in the library after running away from his parents, she leaves town with him and the two find themselves on the open road, wondering who exactly kidnapped whom. Along the way both Ian and Lucy discover things about themselves, but it is really Lucy’s journey to understand herself, her family, and her motivations that captivate the reader. At times tremendously funny and always heartwarming and thought provoking, The Borrower is full of literary references and will delight readers and book lovers alike. I can’t wait to see what Makkai does next!