Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

The Borrower is about an "accidental" children's librarian who "accidentally" kidnaps her favorite patron, at 10-year-old boy with a mother who censors his reading and who sends him to a Christian camp to try to keep him from being gay. She takes him on a long drive across the country, starting in Hannibal, Missouri. There are things I liked about this book and things I did not.

I like Ian, the boy. He is a delightful child, one I would enjoy meeting in real life. There is a plot twist toward the end involving a man who has been tailing them that amused me. The conversations between Lucy, the librarian, and Ian are often interesting and creative. I enjoyed the many literary references that are scattered throughout the book.

However, the book also contains many negative librarian stereotypes. Aside from Lucy, the "accidental" librarian, the other "real" librarians are happy to help censor reading material and have no problem violating patron confidentiality. Lucy notes that the two other women in the children's department "seemed to see the library as some kind of volunteer work, like a soup kitchen." The library director is a drunk. Lucy refers to herself as " a simple maiden lady librarian." I have to assume either the author has never met a real librarian or has met just one whom she did not like.

I recommend the later chapters, set outside the library. I do not recommend the early chapters, set inside the library. I had considered choosing this book for my book club, but I won't be.

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