gina's Reviews > The Borrower

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
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's review
Jan 11, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: library
Read from December 23 to 26, 2011

My friend suggested I read The Borrower because I love books, and he was spot-on. This book drops dozens of references to other books (especially children's literature) in an endless stream of inside-joke humor. And I loved it because I get the references. Yes, I've read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--got that reference. And of course I've read Goodnight, Moon--loved the chapter based on that book. Not to mention Middlesex, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and The Wizard of Oz. I got many or most of the esoteric references and felt like I was in the in-crowd. Of nerds, of course. How can you not love a book that makes you feel so cool?

The demographics:

Plot: small town librarian escapes confused and dreary life as she embarks on cross-country journey with 10-year-old library patron.
Characters: Lucy the librarian (actually she's a librarian by trade but not by education), and Ian (precocious kid who is infatuated with books)

I've read many reviews of the book, and there are a lot of librarians (and just regular folk) out there who are really offended by some aspects of the book:
1. Our twenty-six-year-old hero Lucy works in a library but does not have a degree or certificate in library science. She makes many bad decisions as she embarks on her adventure, and this gives librarians a bad name. Boo!
2. There are a few negative references to anorexic people.
3. (view spoiler)

To these complaints, I say: don't be so literal!

Our hero Lucy is clearly confused. She's young, idealistic, inexperienced, and carries a lot of baggage. The good thing about Lucy is that she shares all of her twisted logic and misgivings with us. Really, are any of us that perfect that every decision we make is the exactly right decision? So what if she decides to take little Ian for a ride--across state lines. She wasn't sure if he was being abused at home, or if he was just weird, or both. Most of us would just contact the Dept. of Children's Services, but hey--Lucy is immature and impulsive. Instead she decides to take him to Chicago.

People, haven't you ever felt like you just want to run away? Surely you were in your twenties at some point in your life. Even though many aspects of this story seem fantastic, the reflective musings of Lucy ring true to life. She agonizes over her decisions, is paranoid when she thinks she's being followed, worried about what's going to happen, confused about her purpose in life. Haven't we all done that? Anyway, she's a lot nicer than You-Know-Who.

I enjoyed her voice and her thoughts. I loved the people in this story--this book was chock full of fun and interesting characters, my favorites being all the Russians, and Tim the theater guy. We went to many small towns and even hit the big city of Chicago. I had so many big-smile moments as I read this book that I had to stop and read excerpts to my 13-year-old son (also a book lover).

Entertaining and nerdy--if that's what you're looking for, you'll love The Borrower.

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