From journalist and author Sue Halpern comes a wry, observant look at contemporary life and its refugees. Halpern’s novel is an unforgettable tale of family...the kind you come from and the kind you create.
People are drawn to libraries for all kinds of reasons. Most come for the books themselves, of course; some come to borrow companionship. For head librarian Kit, the public library in Riverton, New Hampshire, offers what she craves most: peace. Here, no one expects Kit to talk about the calamitous events that catapulted her out of what she thought was a settled, suburban life. She can simply submerge herself in her beloved books and try to forget her problems.
But that changes when fifteen-year-old, home-schooled Sunny gets arrested for shoplifting a dictionary. The judge throws the book at Sunny—literally—assigning her to do community service at the library for the summer. Bright, curious, and eager to connect with someone other than her off-the-grid hippie parents, Sunny coaxes Kit out of her self-imposed isolation. They’re joined by Rusty, a Wall Street high-flyer suddenly crashed to earth.
In this little library that has become the heart of this small town, Kit, Sunny, and Rusty are drawn to each other, and to a cast of other offbeat regulars. As they come to terms with how their lives have unraveled, they also discover how they might knit them together again and finally reclaim their stories.
Sue Halpern lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont where she writes books and articles, consorts with her husband, the writer and activist Bill McKibben, looks forward to visits from their wonderful daughter Sophie, plays with their remarkably enthusiastic dog, and introduces Middlebury College students to digital audio storytelling. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate from Oxford, the author of a book that was made an Emmy-nominated film as well as six others that weren’t, one-half of a therapy dog team, a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, and a major supporter of the ice cream industry.
A quiet novel, a character driven novel where I just fell in love with these characters. Plus, it takes place, mostly in a library, and in a state where not many books are set, a small town in new Hampshire. Three people from disparate backgrounds, seeking a new start in their lives, come together hoping to find the something of which they did not know they were looking. Kit, librarian, has made a new, quiet life for herself in this small town. Sunny, a young teenager girl, with unorthodox parents, find herself sentenced to a summer of community service at the library, for attempting to steal a dictionary. Rusty, once thought he had it all, but finds himself with virtually nothing, but an old bankbook. There are four elderly men who once held different positions in this small town, and now come daily to the library, to read the newspapers and other things. I think all small town library probably has characters such as these.
I enjoy books like this, watching how over the course of the summer these different characters come to mingle, and affect each others lives.. We learn their back stories, and see how they change and grow. Families one puts together, as opposed to those which we were given. A book that reminds us that behind every closed door, there is an open window if we allow ourselves to reach out and discover what's there. A good, touching story, one I took to heart.
It was easy to be drawn into this book. As a retired librarian, this place and the people who work there and the people who hang out there of course, appealed to me. It’s mostly about three characters whose lives become connected at this Library. Kit is the reference Librarian and her past life is somewhat of a mystery, although we get the story in bits and pieces - her marriage, her therapy sessions as it slowly becomes clear. Sunny is probably favorite character, a fifteen year old girl, arrested and sentenced by a wise judge to work for the summer at the public library. Her crime was stealing a dictionary. The reason: “....it was this thing I read someplace, and it really got to me. It said that a dictionary is every book written and every book that will be written, just in a different order. And it seemed magical. You could own every book just by owning one book. I loved that. And I just had to have it.” I just loved that too! I also felt for this young girl as we learn her back story living on the run with non conformist parents, a free spirited mother and a law breaking activist father who does more than steal a dictionary.
Then there is Rusty, the guy who spends hours on the computer tying to find his lost inheritance as he finds himself without his high paying, high power job. All three of them are trying to come to terms with their pasts, trying to find a way forward and their connection to each other founded in the library brings them all to a better place in a somewhat expected ending. The Four, the wonderful retired gentleman who arrive each day to read the paper also stole my heart. The literary quotes interspersed throughout also contributed to making this an enjoyable read.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Harper Perennial through Edelweiss.
"I realize no one thinks being a librarian is as awesome as being a neurosurgeon, but I always thought I was doing something valuable, putting books in the hands of readers. Books can save lives, too. I really believe that."
Ah, if only the rest of the book was as great as that quote.
It seems I'm unable to resist any book with the word library in the title; I only wish this one had been a little more library, and a little less soap opera. Three main characters, all sort of floundering, are thrown together at the library one summer. None of them have anything in common, and I was never able to understand their attraction to one another.
Though I was curious enough to finish the book, but I doubt I'll remember it six months from now.
The ending is what sealed this book’s rating for me- I won’t reveal anything, but it just wasn’t executed well. I felt like the novel was almost superficially following the main characters, if that makes sense. I also kept thinking of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novels. They are such rich character studies, and it seemed like that’s what Halpern was aiming for, but it just fell short for me.
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern is the story of a dying New Hampshire small town, and a group of very lonely people that meet at the town’s library as each is dealing with a personal trauma. Kit, the reference librarian, is recovering from something devastating that happened in a marriage. 15 year-old Sunny longs for structure and stability her hippie parents are unwilling to provide; and Rusty, a refugee from Wall Street during the Great Recession, is searching for a new identity and a new start. As their pasts are slowly revealed, the trio’s present becomes slowly entangled.
It is my experience as a reader that stories of this sort - where hurt people come together in a unique setting are either hit or miss. Done well, they provide insight into the human condition, and are a pleasant way to pass your reading time. Done poorly, they are overly formulaic and sappy - requiring the willing suspension of belief. Happily I place Ms. Halpern’s work into the former category. Recommended for fans of “cozy literary”novels, like The Storied Life of A. J. Fikery, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and The Rosie Project.
As an aside, if you enjoyed Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, I would also recommend reading works by Joshilyn Jackson Rachel Joyce, Fredrick Backman and Billy Letts.
Books about books, reading, bookstores, libraries, literacy, etc. are often a weakness for me and this sounded exactly like a type of book that I'd like. A bunch of characters are thrown together by circumstance and because of the setting (and a library certainly tends to attract a wide range of people) learn to sort through what happened/what is happening and how to move forward and what they take from the experience.
Great concepts but very poor execution. Having a first chapter where a character reminisces about her love life and previous romantic partners is not the way to keep me interested. It's not necessarily a deal-breaker but I was not thrilled with this opening. Like others say, the book is dull. The characters aren't really anyone that leaps off the page at me and are fully-fleshed on their own.
I've also never worked in a library but as someone who has worked at a bookstore I couldn't help but look in askance at some of the happenings there (although it is a small town library and maybe. The author seemed to have tried to spread the narrative too thinly among too many characters which sacrificed their development. A pity, because this could have been an endearing, interesting (if maybe too neatly tied together) story.
I had considered buying it but I'm glad I borrowed it from the library instead.
This was dull, nothing too offensive but nothing special, a plot structure that's all too predictable and feels like it's been done, it's some combination of Manchester by the Sea and Captain Fantastic, but more stale and forgettable. I got an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review, which appears on RunSpotRun.com
What I liked: The characters, especially Sunny. Sunny is the over the top teenage girl sentenced to community service for pilfering a dictionary from a local bookstore. She is being raised by oddball, off the grid parents Willow and Steve and is outrageously bright and entertaining. The novel is character driven, ambling slowly through the stories of librarian Kit, Rusty who joins the Robbers Library to search the Internet, Sunny who loves books and is volunteered by the judge, The Four Old Guys who know everything there is to know about the town of Riverton and others who intercept the strands.
“‘People change, and smile; but the agony abides’. ...’T.S Eliot. The Dry Salvages’”
Author Sue Halpern peppers her text with quotes, too. I liked that.
And oh, there are no “robbers” in this library. Nifty title, total misdirection, the “mysteries” are unrelated.
Lots of dialogue. Lots. Lots. Lots. Lots. Some more. Some thinking. More thinking. Thinking again. Thinking out loud. Talking. Thinking about talking. Talking about memories of doing. Some doing. Some going to and fro. Then some more talking. Maybe sitting and talking.
That kind of suspenseful speedy plot... just so you are prepared, ok?
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library definitely whiles away the time, quietly. It won’t rock you, sock you or knock you over... but it is a calm, quiet friendly, hopeful read. Three gentle stars.
I love books about books. I read The Bookshop on the Corner and loved it a lot more than I thought I would, so I was excited about dipping into this one. We have a small town, a library, and quirky characters sooooo I should have loved this book. My major problem was that this book was all over the place. I am not sure if Halpern knew what she wanted to focus on. I didn't get the third narrator on the audio, maybe it was later explained. but it seemed off. The cover is amazing so I know I would have picked this book up just based on that no matter what it would have been about, lol.
***I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.***
Some day I'll learn to stop being taken in by books that take place in libraries and bookshops. Two stars is probably a bit harsh, because this was passable entertainment. There just wasn't anything fresh or original. The characters didn't seem realistic. There was no one to cheer for. It dealt with varying stories of abuse that never seemed labeled as such, abusers forgiven and written off as boys being boys and so on.
A rather enchanting,heartwarming and cozy read about some wayward souls who end up, under differing circumstances, in the small declining town of Riverton, New Hampshire. They try to address and work their way through their personal life’s challenges instead of hiding or running from it.
At the beginning we read of Kit’s young lust and then love. Was it truly love or was it just comfortable? Was it self sustaining or was it a facade? Were both parties really in it 100% or was one giving up who they really were so the other could achieve career brilliance? Money can make or break a person and unfortunately, it sadly does both in this book.
Cal and Kit’s marriage and its slights through the years are revealed in pieces throughout the book. It is at the end that the reader has finally been given the entire story of their relationship, and what a reveal it is. I liked how it all unfolded bit by bit and had the reader questioning and wanting more throughout the book, but you had to wait! It was a big tease, but a good one, and it explains ALOT; mostly why Kit is hurt and damaged and why she eventually moved to Riverton to work at a library.
Rusty is a down and out former business executive, who is out of a job, out of a fancy luxurious home, running out of money and has no immediate job prospects. He too, ends up in the town of Riverton and hangs out at the library where Kit works to update and send off his resumes with no bites. But - away from the corporate madness and the fast pace and spending money as fast as it came in, he is now feeling the after effects of that heady successful rush ending abruptly and brutally. But, he’s also realizing now, day by day in the slow town of Riverton, and with the friends he’s made at his budget hotel and at the library, that it’s really not so bad after all. And the money and fancy clothes and hot shot facade are just things. Friends in Riverton are true caring friends, not brief acquaintances as so often happens in the business world.
Sunny, a teen-aged girl who is sentenced to do community work at the Riverton library after attempting to steal a dictionary from a bookstore. She’s a plucky girl, bright, sensitive, observant, friendly, good with kids. Her parents are hippies and continue to live the free life off the grid, resurfacing as needed to work occasionally to make money or sell jewelry. Sunny is home schooled/no schooled, yet she has such a good head on her shoulders. I was cheering for her all the way. Her parents were kooky in many a sense, and her growing up was borderline living off the grid to abusive in the sense that she had some illnesses/accidents yet they treated her with herbs, etc and feared going to doctor/hospital so did not bother taking her. I questioned her parents odd relationship with each other and then the whole family unit thing. Sunny was prone to overhearing, seeing things, being a part of the parents behavior and character that perhaps a child should not have had to. Being so inquisitive, she had lots of questions and attempted to figure out not only her family and background, but the background of others close to her as well.
So Kit, Sunny and Rusty are the main characters and I liked each and every one of them; they worked and connected so well together.
The main location of their interactions was at the historic town library, which was the thread that pulled them all together.
The ending was maybe just a tad too quickly done and neatly tied up after the reveal; I thought it could have been drawn out a bit more and become even more interesting. Perhaps there will be a sequel on how they all move forward? I’d like to see that. Nonetheless, it was a very cozy, heartwarming, and engaging read.
Digital audiobook performed by Josh Bloomberg, Dara Rosenberg and Allyson Ryan 4****
Three people running from their past (or present) find the help they need at the library. Kit is the head librarian at the Riverton, NH library; she likes the peace she finds there and the ability to hide from her disastrous past. Fifteen-year-old Sunny has been home-schooled (or “no-schooled” as she sometimes refers to it), and assigned to work for the summer at the library in lieu of a sentence for shoplifting a dictionary. Rusty is a former Wall Street hedge-fund star, now out of work and seeking answers to his mother’s past as he laboriously researches the libraries historical archives. Slowly they are drawn together and help one another unravel their pasts and seek their futures.
I confess that I hadn’t really read the jacket blurb so I was expecting a chick-lit, light romantic story. This is definitely NOT that. Halpern drew me in, however. The secrets are revealed every so slowly throughout the book, much as you might only reveal such information to a friend over time as you got to know and trust her.
Kit’s is the most troubling to her. She was fully aware of the events that led her to flee to Riverton with a new name and to make a new – QUIET – life. But she’s a strong, determined woman and as closed off as she appears to be, she is compassionate and caring.
Rusty spends his days at the library researching the town’s history. He’s a stranger in town and an enigma: driving a fancy car, with obviously expensive clothes, but living in a small motel and in obvious need of a haircut. An old bank passbook he had found among his deceased mother’s possessions, is what has brought him to Riverton, in hopes of perhaps finding a nest egg of cash to see him through, and possibly some answers to his questions about his mother’s past.
In Sunny’s case, of course, she doesn’t even know there is a secret that her parents hide with their “hippie” lifestyle. But once she gets a glimpse at a different possibility, she is tenacious in ferreting out the truth, facing it and forcing her parents to face it as well. I really loved her character and how she developed over the summer.
The novel is told in alternating view points as each of the three central characters reveals his or her back story and experiences in current time. The first time there was a “flashback” it caught me off guard, but I quickly grew used to the style. Halpern gives us a wonderful cast of supporting characters as well. From Sunny’s mother, Willow, to a group of octogenarians known collectively as “The Four” and the rest of the library staff, these characters help and support one another. There are moments of humor and love to counterbalance the stress and heartache. I’d love a sequel to find out how they all fair in coming years.
The audiobook is performed by a trio of talented voice artists, each voicing one of the central characters. This was very effective for the changing view points in narration. Job well done!
This one was a lot heavier than I initially anticipated it would be, but not overly so. If you like books about libraries and librarians and appreciate a little heft in your women's fiction, definitely look for this one!
Fifteen year old Sunny gets arrested for shop lifting a dictionary. She is given community service for her indiscretion. Community service at the local small town library. Forty hour weeks for the length of the summer. Sunny becomes another stow away in a sea of books, a place where others have sought salvation and isolation. It is here in this library that Sunny finds friends, herself, and comes to terms with all the problems she thought she had.
I did not care for the format of this book. It not only had chapters, but then each chapter was broken down into bits and pieces highlighted by subtitles like "Sunny|fireworks" "Sunny|shopping" "Sunny|fugitive". In addition there were a lot of quotes - Keats, Williams, Lowell, Schwartz - just to name a few. These were interspersed throughout the pages. Both of these tactics were more interrupting to me than useful. Also at 368 pages I felt this book could have been cut by probably 100 pages and you would not have lost a thing in the story.
I felt the premise of the story was good, but the layout was disturbing. This is not a heavy, mind-boggling book, so you expect it to read well and easily. I did not find that to be the case.
I adored this book. There are lots of negative reviews here, and, I don't know - I just don't agree, I guess. I liked the story of Kit, and how you don't exactly know what happened to her (or rather, to her marriage) until later on in the story. Kit is a realistic character - actually, I feel like most of the characters are well developed, although they don't go that deep, except for Rusty, Kit and Sunny.
I enjoyed how the book was set up with the quotes and defined words for Sunny.
As a librarian, I of course love books set in and about libraries, but I also found that this story wasn't too overwhelming with the library setting, which I did like.
It was a sweet, enthralling read, that I read quickly and would recommend.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. I picked up the ARC because it involved a library. Kit takes a job as a librarian in the dying industrial town of Riverton, NH for reasons that are gradually revealed. The library is a refuge not only for Kit but also for Sunny, the teenage daughter of contemporary hippies, and Rusty, a displaced financier who lost his job on Wall Street after the crash of 2008. These 3 very different people discover a common bond through the library. Halpern captures the gradual healing of these 3 people damaged by life without a lot of melodrama or sentimentality. This book just feels true.
What started out as a slow read became a lively, lovely story about a small town library, its workers, patrons and denizens about. Reference worker, Kit is recovering from a marriage that failed miserably, its demise slowly revealed as the story progresses. Teenage Sunny is sentenced to work there after lifting a dictionary from a store. Situationally transient, Rusty becomes one of the regulars that take up the mornings.
With resistance to opening herself up, Kit slowly bonds with these two. The story revolves about her, but Sunny tells hers first person.
There are quite a few surprises that made this even more enjoyable. Was thrilled Halpren skipped the cliches, added some fabulous quotes, kept the dialogue real, and allowed us to fall in love with her characters and stay as such.
This is a keeper for me. A feel good read to grab and read again as needed.
I love it when I stumble across a book by someone I don’t know and about which I only know the blurb and it turns out to be wonderful. This story is one of those. Kit, Sunny, Rusty and all the Riverton cast of characters caught me from page one. This is a lovely story about how we make our lives work.
📚 Hello Book Friends! One good thing that came out of 2020 is the opportunity to reduce the TBR list of books. SUMMER HOURS AT THE ROBBERS LIBRARY by Sue Halpern was added to my TBR list this year just because it has the word “Library” in it. Published in 2018, this book was totally unknown to me, and what a shame that it was!! This novel is everything you want: witty, funny, tragic, and moving. I was captured by the beautiful writing style and the sensational cast of characters. This is one purchase I will never regret. It was a true pleasure to read this novel.
Three strangers find each other over a summer in a small dying town in New Hampshire. Sunny and her parents lead an odd life. When Sunny is caught stealing a dictionary from the book store she is sentenced to work 40 hours a week at the small local library. Kit is running from some terrible events in her past. She has come to Riverton to live a quite, anonymous life, and be alone. But Sunny works her way in to Kit's life. And then Rusty arrives. A Wall Street trader who lost everything after the financial collapse, Rusty comes to Riverton looking for a last chance. Sometimes you need to find other people in order to find yourself again.
I loved this book. I found it delightful, but not shallow. It was thought provoking and enjoyable at the same time. I enjoyed the characters, and how they grew through the book. The writing is good, but the jumping around in time and narrators could sometimes be difficult to follow. Highly recommended!
Novels set in libraries or bookstores always seem to be filled with warmhearted misfits. "Summer Hours at the Robbers Library" follows that same outline, but our misfits' stories unfold in chapters and include characters we learn to love.
Kit is sad and insulated against feelings and people. Sunny is a 15-year-old girl who knows more about smashing the patriarchy than she does pop culture. Rusty had a career and more cash than he knew what to do with . . . until he didn't. Together, they form a family unit even though they aren't.
Liked this! Set in a decaying New Hampshire industrial town with an old Carnegie library. It had the potential to be a cute, feel-good read with a requisite happy ending, but proved more than that I relished the complex characters and their complicated problems, and appreciated an ending that felt hopeful but realistic. You could call this a “family drama” about people with non-traditional family bonds.
I really try not to DNF books without giving them a good, solid chance. I forced myself through 100 pages of absolutely nothing happening before I gave up on this one. The parts of the story told through the eyes of the adult main character were totally lackluster, and the parts told by the teenage girl felt forced. I'd like to say there was SOMETHING I liked, but besides the fact that so much of the story took place inside a library, I can honestly say there wasn't much.
If you are going to base your story in a library and with a librarian, you may want to do some research as to what the profession actually entails. Too many unrealistic details to make the book an enjoyable read.
Cute book about a small town library and the people who frequent it. Some "lost" people find one another and get themselves on a better road to a happy life just by spending time together at the library.
I surprised myself by really enjoying this book. I received an ARC copy and highly recommend. Head Librarian Kit has a past and it is teased out throughout the story. I ate it with a spoon. I wanted to know what was up with her! Rusty, Sunny and the cast of other characters, were interesting, engaging and a bit damaged! The town itself (Riverton, New Hampshire) was a character in and of itself and I would love to visit. I think those looking for a Binchy Readalike may enjoy Sue Halpern
I read this Advanced Reading Copy in exchange for a fair review. I liked this book. I expected it to have a cast of somewhat crazy characters which it did not. It was a thoughtful novel on small town life, finding our way, and finding a way to belong to our fellow humans. The preface tells the story of Kit falling in love with the man who became her husband. Kit has been working in the library of a small town in NH for 4 years, escaping from her previous life as a wife and compliant mate. The isolation and privacy she surrounds herself with is her way of facing the rest of her life. The focus of the book is the relationships between Kit and other regulars who use the library. Interspersed, we learn the details of Kit's marriage and divorce. We also learn about the lives of a young girl, Sunny, and a man named Rusty, both of whom work their way into Kit's orbit through their daily visits to the library. The characters are very introspective and interesting, each in their own way. I thought the book got off to a slow start but Sue Halpern did a wonderful job of character development and I became invested in all their lives. For me, that's a sign of a good book.