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The Borrower: A Novel by Rebecca Makkai
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The Borrower: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Rebecca Makkai

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7057413,430 (3.51)1 / 37
Member:TravellinPenguin
Title:The Borrower: A Novel
Authors:Rebecca Makkai
Info:Penguin Books (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Have read this book
Rating:***
Tags:A Library Book Read

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The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

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English (71)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  All languages (76)
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Listened to the audio for first 6 discs (of 8); finished in print.

A unique story (26-year-old librarian and 10-year-old patron go on a road trip that is halfway between a runaway and a kidnapping) with common themes: the effect of family history on one's present actions, how much people can change (if at all), the power of story.

Lucy Hull works as a children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri; Ian Drake is one of her favorite patrons, a voracious reader. Lucy helps Ian read books his religious mother wouldn't approve of (witches, wizards, etc.), and worries when she discovers that Ian is being sent to classes under the auspices of the Glad Heart Ministry (one of those pray-away-the-gay organizations). When Ian runs away to the library and Lucy discovers him there, he refuses to go home - so they run away instead.

Lucy's family is Russian, and though she thought she knew her family history, truer versions are revealed in the course of her and Ian's road trip, first at a stop at her parents' in Chicago, then at a family friends' house in Pittsburgh. It is a history of righteous anger, of false perceptions, of running away.

Quotes

But I was caught up in the cliche of it, the scripts you choose from when someone dies... (63)

It makes me wonder what kinds of fiction I'm capable of, by nature and nurture. (131)

My father, God bless him, pretended to believe me. He can believe anything he wants. (140)

...some of the dizziness and fuzzy-headedness I'd been feeling all day had to do with that realization, the idea that the rug of my family history might have just been yanked out from under me. (151)

"I think when we have false assumptions about the world, we make the wrong decisions." (186)

I felt that I needed to rewind my life to the beginning and watch it again, to see what I had missed. (188)

"This is a nation of runaways. Every person comes from somewhere else." (188)

"...but every year you see that what you thought you understood a year ago, no, wait, it is ten times worse." (225)

We actually were right. We just cared more about being right than about doing what was right. And we cared more about being right than about our own lives. (226)

I thought what a wonderful children's book that would make: a library haunted by friendly old librarians. (242)

Growing up...my younger self must have set some strange, romantic standards of adulthood: in one's twenties, one is to leave everything behind and start over. (264)

"The problem with you is you read and you read, but you don't listen to anything someone says with the mouth." (276)

I'd forgotten that all the runaway stories end like this. Everyone goes home. (281)

It was the universal revelation of adolescence, that the adults around you do not have all the answers - and like all children growing slowly and painfully into their mature selves, he'd realize it again and again over the next few years. But in Ian it was more than a simple disillusionment. It might well be what would save his life. (288)

You think you can't go home again? It's the only place you can ever go. (301)

I had failed to understand that one reason you can't change who you are is that you can't change where you're from. (301)

...all I knew were novels. It gave me pause, for a moment, that all my reference points were fiction, that all my narratives were lies. (319)

But books, on the other hand: I do still believe that books can save you. (320) ( )
  JennyArch | Jul 8, 2014 |
I liked this one a lot -- it was very sweet and slightly rebellious at the same time. I liked the characters, who never turned into clichés, and I really enjoyed the fact that each moment was a surprise -- you never knew what was coming next. Even the deus ex machina at the end was wackily perfect (I thought for sure the pastor at the end was going to become a love interest, which speaks to the book's essential kindly goofiness). Plus lots of literary references, librarians, oddball kids, expat Russians, northern Vermont. What's not to love? ( )
  lisapeet | May 16, 2014 |
This book is all about right and wrong. Only it is poorly written. It follows a children's librarian as she runs away with a young gay boy. To keep him away from his homophobic parents. She plays right into his hand. The librarian was more the child than the boy. It irritated me to no end. Any adult would have given the child a safe place to talk and even maybe helped him find pflag. However an adult would not allow a small child to talk her into taking him on a crosscountry adventure without any reparations or even getting caught. Lucy the librarian was boring as an individual and it was horrid being inside her head. She could barely make the correct decisions for herself let alone for a child. Don't bother just talk to any indefinite adolescent of the recent generation. ( )
  sarahzilkastarke | Nov 20, 2013 |
The cover--gorgeous!
The story--sounds fantastic... Only on pg 67.

There was so much to like about the storyline, but some of it didn't flesh out very well. Thank god the story wrapped up fairly well. I really felt like the author got her groove going once they left the library.
I still enjoyed the story. It made me think about my own religion, and how natural is is to want to protect your children from outside influences. I love books. I can't imagine what my childhood would have been like had I been kept from certain books, let alone feeling like I must reprogram my whole being to be accepted by my parents.
( )
  MochiMama | Aug 21, 2013 |
As much as I wanted to love this book, which sounded as though it were tailor-made for me (Libraries! Classic children's literature! Russians! The triumph of people with precocious imaginations over the dull Philistines!), in the end it had that strained, airless quality common to all proselytizing tracts, no matter how well-written or how sympathetic the subject matter. Still, I recognize and am proud to acknowledge in these pages the ridiculous creed that I live by:

"Because what it's come down to, after that whole messy spring, that whole tortured summer, all the time since, is this: I no longer believe I can save people. I've tried, and I've failed, and while I'm sure there are people out in the world with that particular gift, I'm not one of them. I make too much of a mess of things. But books, on the other hand: I do still believe that books can save you." ( )
  booksinthebelfrey | Aug 4, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
The novel bogs down for a long time in the middle with an excess of plot, but the moving final chapters affirm the power of books to change people’s lives even as they acknowledge the unbreakable bonds of home and family.

Smart, literate and refreshingly unsentimental.
 
In her bracingly tough-minded tale of a discontented librarian who hits the road with a maladjusted 10-year-old, Rebecca Makkai tips her hat to a shelf-load of children's literature, offering sly echoes of everything from "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White to "Where's Spot?" By Eric Hill, while crafting her own distinctive sound in a first novel definitely not for kids. Makkai avoids almost all the pitfalls of debut fiction, including sentimentality and undigested autobiography, and though her plotting isn't as deft as her characterizations, the wonderfully nuanced closing pages more than make up for the occasional longueurs that precede them....Yet every conflicted word Lucy utters in Makkai's probing novel reminds us that literature matters because it helps us discover ourselves while exploring the worlds of others.
 
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I might be the villain of this story. Even now, it's hard to tell.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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 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.

Lucy, a rebel at heart beneath her librarian’s exterior, 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 the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on an improvised road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets and an inconvenient boyfriend thrown in their path. Along the way, Lucy struggles to make peace with her Russian immigrant father and his fugitive past, and is forced to use his shady connections to escape discovery. [the author]
Haiku summary
A librarian / kidnapped a little boy and / then sent him back home (_debbie_)
Ran from religion / Hiding out with the Russians / Reading can save you (_debbie_)

No descriptions found.

(see all 3 descriptions)

When her favorite patron, a book-loving ten-year-old, runs away from overbearing parents who force him to attend anti-gay classes with a celebrity pastor, children's librarian Lucy Hull flees with the boy and discovers that they are being pursued by an anonymous adversary.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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