Wednesday, July 4, 2012

THE BORROWER: A NOVEL by Rebecca Makkai

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine  
Publisher: Penguin Books, May 2012
Pages:  336

Twenty-six year old Lucy Hull never imagined she would find herself seemingly locked into a career as a children's librarian in small-town Missouri. Having accepted the job right out of college, and adapted to be able to overcome workplace obstacles to do it well, she found herself in a comfortable rut, and treasured those moments that helped her over that. 

Many of those moments came when ten year old Ian Drake visited her library. A precocious boy with an appetite for life and learning, Ian was also unlike most boys in his mannerisms and interests, a difference of which his right-wing Christian parents were very much aware. Lucy cringed when his mother insisted that he only be allowed to read "boy" books with good (i.e., heterosexual) role models and Christian values, while Ian ached to expand his reading to topics that were far more interesting to him. When Lucy found out that his mother had enrolled him a "reparative therapy" church group run by the notorious "Pastor Bob," and saw that it bothered Ian so much that he actually ran away, hiding in the library with the plan to leave from there in the morning, she decided to get involved. That morning, she and Ian drove out of town, on a meandering journey to her parents' in Chicago, and eventually to search for Ian's grandmother in New England. 

Most of the book is about their impromptu "road trip," and the conversations and conclusions each makes about their respective lives. Lucy keeps in touch with a friend from the library, manages to concoct a story to explain Ian to her parents, and reassesses what she wants to do with her life. She also worries about a car that seems to be following them, and what will eventually happen with Ian when he gets back home. 

As farfetched and illogical as the plot seems to be, it will resonate with any reader who has, at times, felt overwhelmed with what life is offering them, and wants to hit the "reboot" switch to try again. It also gives a serious look into the mind of an intelligent young boy who realizes he is different, and can only find one person (Lucy) who seems to accept him as is. Worth a look, and I'll give it four stars out of five. 

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