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The Borrower

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  10,583 ratings  ·  2,089 reviews
Lucy Hull, a 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. Ian needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes. Desperate to save him from the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian when sh ...more
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published June 9th 2011 by Viking (first published January 1st 2011)
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Tracey Curtis Ian's grandparents are all dead. He gets Lucy to take him to Vermont to visit his "Nana," but she's dead. They wind up looking for her grave in a ceme…moreIan's grandparents are all dead. He gets Lucy to take him to Vermont to visit his "Nana," but she's dead. They wind up looking for her grave in a cemetery and it turns out to be a great-great-great grandparent's grave that they can hardly read the tombstone. One of the more "whimsical" parts of the book.
Lucy doesn't get into trouble. She takes an adult librarian job in another state. She sends one of her actor friends to slip Ian a list of books he should read.(less)

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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,583 ratings  ·  2,089 reviews

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Elaine Lincoln
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Well I'll be honest: I joined Goodreads just so I could review this book. It is one of those ones that makes you want to grab strangers on the street and force them to read it while you watch their face to see their reaction. But more about that in a minute...

I do read reviews on Goodreads from time to time, usually after I finish a book (oddly), and two things were bothering me about the responses to this book, and I felt compelled to respond to them. It seems I had to join to do that! First, i
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Oh, where to start? I just couldn't buy into the premise no matter how much I really tried. When you have a book that essentially a two-hander, you need to like both characters - Lucy just irritated me too much for that to happen. Which is too bad because the book parodies and games are charming.

Lucy is the head children's librarian at a small public library in Missouri, reporting to an alcoholic director, living over a small theatre, and no real direction in life. One of the children that comes
Swaroop Kanti
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool, dramatic, spontaneous and hilarious!

Come, hop on and just enjoy the drive... don`t waste time judging or finding the critic within yourself.

“Isn't it what all librarians strive toward, at least in the movies and cliches? Silence, invisibility, nothing but a rambling cloud of old book dust.”

This book is about the crazy road trip story of Lucy Hull, a children's librarian from Hannibal, Missouri and 10-year-old Ian Drake.

I started this book thinking it was about books, libraries and librari
Jul 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Let me say it straight out: this book isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Those who cherry-pick the Bible – who ignore the parts that say “you can’t ever eat pork or shellfish, and women should cover their heads, and you can’t plant two crops in the same field”, yet laser in on two little verses that may or may not imply that God doesn’t like gays – will likely be offended.

Certainly, the existence of those who believe not in absolute rights but in their particular absolute right offends the
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Here's the first thing that people should understand about The Borrower: it's not realistic. Here's the second: that doesn't matter. Allow yourself to go with it for a moment before condemning Lucy for driving away from Hannibal, Missouri with Ian Drake, or doubting that she would do it in the first place. I just don't feel that author Rebecca Makkai was expecting us to believe that any 26 year-old librarian would go on a week-long secret road trip with a 10 year-old child, even one whose parent ...more
Reading The Borrower is like having a long sit-down with an old friend, full of asides and references you're supposed to know. It's great!

I could pick this book apart, if I wanted to: Lucy is not a believable character: She's super-smart, but has no career plans, gorgeous, but doesn't date or have friends, "falls into" a job that requires an advanced degree she doesn't have, and allows herself to be led into a criminal act by a ten year old boy.


It is a fantastically enjoyable read. Makkai giv
Julie Ekkers
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
What a delightful book! It concerns a sort of listless librarian and her friendship--and sudden adventure--with a 10-year-old boy, who might be gay, to the horror of his very Christian parents. There are references to all kinds of children's books which all readers who were bookworms as children will have fun recognizing and remembering. What I loved most about this book is the manner in which it pays homage to those formative reading experiences, and acknowledges that for many of us, books cont ...more
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-bookstores
I was drawn to this book by its bookish theme and by the author whose "Great Believers" I loved. But a road trip that is an "accidental abduction" of a 10 year old boy by a librarian was not amusing to me but anxiety producing. I could not relax into the flippant tone of this book at all. ...more
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh how I wanted to love this book! It has so many things that I adore: libraries, quirkiness, a book reference on almost every page, a journey, a possibly-gay 10 year-old boy, various unrequited loves...

The book turned out to be grounded more in farce than in reality, which would have been ok except that the protagonist was so dull you couldn't really root for her, and in a farce, you need to have some attachment to the main character in order to swallow all the unrealistic situations and coinci
Darby Zimmerman
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
This book will have its detractors, and I imagine that most of them will have missed the sort of tongue-in-cheek, this-didn't-really-happen aspect of the book. (Once the narrator tells you that you're supposed to call the town Hannibal, Missouri but that it's not really Hannibal, Missouri, and then confesses twenty pages in that she's already lied to you, I think all protestations of a story being unrealistic are null and void.) Lucy is an unreliable narrator -- my favorite kind -- and she takes ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebooks
This started out wonderfully. I was immediately drawn the liberal librarian and the winsome boy whom she sneaks books to, books his parents obect to, but which are children's classics. The librarian's rationale is that the boy wants to read those books and she is not a censor. The ethical and moral issues here are never worked out. Do parents have the right to judge what books are suitable for their children? Do parents have the right to decide what religious beliefs their children should hold? ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Debut novelist and elementary schoolteacher Rebecca Makkai combines a wily, madcap road trip with socially poignant conundrums and multiple themes in this coming-of-age story about a twenty-six-year-old children's librarian, Lucy Hull, and a ten-year-old precocious book lover, Ian Drake, in fictional Hanibal, Missouri. (Guess who is coming-of-age? Answer: not so evident.)

Lucy isn't entirely sure that she's a reliable narrator--part of our reading pleasure is to figure that out. She tells us in t
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book almost two weeks ago, but I've struggled in how to write this review. This book was a personal treasure to me, and writing my thoughts on it feel almost too intimate, too vulnerable, to bare to the world. And that's strange to me, because this is not high literature, no one will be studying this in a classroom, and it likely will never be a bestseller, but it spoke to me, or maybe echoed to me, all the things I try to say about what drives me and what I want to do with my li ...more
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-of-2012
But books, on the other hand: I do still believe that books can save you. ...and because I knew the people books had saved. They were college professors and actors and scientists and poets. They got to college and sat on dorm floors drinking coffee, amazed they'd finally found their soul mates. They always dressed a little out of season. Their names were enshrined on the pink cards in the pockets of all the forgotten hardbacks in every library basement in America. If the librarians were lazy eno ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A charming close relationship between a young librarian (Lucy) and a precocious young boy (Ian) that revolves around the library and books. Lucy treats the library and books as if they were her own. This young boy, Ian, loves books; is addicted to books and to the library and looks to Lucy for suggesting good books for him to read. Unfortunately his mother is not keen on him reading certain genres, so either the boy or the librarian, devise ways to smuggle out his books (in his pants, under his ...more
I’m not sure yet why I didn’t love this book as much as I expected to. Perhaps it’s because I never have read Mary Norton’s The Borrowers , and therefore couldn’t appreciate the parallels that Makkai was making.

The main character, Lucy Hull, is a children’s librarian, who becomes overly concerned with the welfare of her favourite library patron, Ian Drake. Being in library work myself, I usually adore books involving libraries and librarians. This one also references many books of childhood, ano
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fiction
I wanted to read this book because the blurb said it was about a children's librarian. Well, that wasn't exactly true. The protagonist is a twenty-something college grad who happens to work in the children's section of a small town library, but she has not actually had any professional training (no masters degree, in other words).I couldn't see that she had had any prior experience of any kind with children, so one wonders how she landed this job. (There must have been a dearth of applicants and ...more
Paula Lyle
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
A librarian and a boy on the run. When I read the reviews on this book, they all seemed to imply a lighthearted caper, which confused me as it also seemed to be about a librarian who kidnaps a child. Now having finished it, I didn't find the book to be very light-hearted and it's not about a kidnapping. You can quibble about whether or not the story is realistic, but the deeper truth is one that anyone who works with children (I teach second grade) can identify with.

There are children that you w
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Where to begin? I loved it! Makkai & I would, no doubt, have been kindred spirits in grade school, reading at recess, going to the library after school, hiding by the night light after hours... Every single time I believed The Borrower could not be more reflective of my childhood reads, another of my favorite titles was mentioned. On page 275, when William DuBois's The 21 Balloons was finally mentioned, I am almost embarrassed to admit how estatic I was. Almost. There are only two titles to whic ...more
Larry H
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Boy, did I love this book.

Lucy Hull is a children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri. In general, she lacks drive—she keeps doing her job because she enjoys it but she doesn't really want to pursue anything else, she keeps personal relationships at arm's length, and she doesn't care that her life is fairly boring. But all that changes as she deals with one of the library's most voracious readers, 10-year-old Ian Drake. When Ian's evangelical mother tells Lucy she only wants Ian reading books tha
Jul 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bonnie G.
I loved that this truly served as a tribute to my favorite children's books, many of which involved children hitting the road, escaping parents who were disconnected, or cruel, or who simply didn't understand them. The "kids on their own" trope, whether in the Mixed up Files or Harry Potter or the many other books that employed it, is magical. Less magical is the kid with an adult accomplice spiriting him around in order to try to outrun her own discontent and alleviate her ridiculous boredom. ( ...more
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-this-year
I haven't written a review until now because I was completely awe struck by this novel. An unlikely pair - a young librarian and a ten year old boy - take a road trip that will change their lives. The story is an unusual mix of the serious as well as humorous ways our past shapes our present as well as a hopeful glimpse into the future. I adored this book. ...more
Bill Khaemba
Oh my God this was really good... I didn't expect to like that much :0 Full Review Soon ...more
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Lucy Hull is a children's librarian, more or less by accident. She is the daughter of a Russian immigrant whom she suspects is a member of the Russian "mafia" in Chicago. The family has always had plenty of money, but her dad is kind of vague about where it comes from. As Lucy recalls how she got the job, she remembers that she was soon to graduate magna cum laude, but had given no thought to what she would do afterwards. Perplexed, the Career Counselor gives her a printout of the English Depart ...more
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I confess I wasn't sure how a story about a librarian who effectively shelters a runaway 10 year old and then goes on a road trip with him was going to work. However it grabbed me very early on and lasted well for me. The engaging story of the road trip taken by these two book lovers is lovely. It is s gentle story wandering around parts of the USA with Lucy (the librarian) questioning herself deeply about why she has effectively abducted Ian and although that concept of gentleness and deep ques ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
We need more books with children's librarians as the main character! What a great concept. And the ending was perfect. I loved that I was reading this during a long car ride with lots of hotel stops (from Indiana to South Dakota), because the librarian is on a long car ride too, without knowing her destination or when the trip will be over. The other main character in the story, 10-year-old Ian, is great too--I can picture him perfectly: smart as a whip and funny and charming in many ways, but e ...more
Now and again, in between all the new books I read, I try to pick something older off my long-suffering to-read pile. I was quite surprised when I glanced over the blurb for The Borrower and found it described as 'delightful, funny and moving'. Somehow, in the five years it's been hovering around the fringes of my reading plan, I'd formed an impression of it as a dark story with transgressive elements. And the opening chapters only added to that – the first line is 'I might be the villain of thi ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Borrower, by Rebecca Makkai--3.5 Stars 4 22 Mar 19, 2016 03:48PM  
I Love My Anythink: Road trip! Book recommendations for the road. 1 15 Jun 04, 2014 12:19PM  
Busy as a Bee Books: The Borrower - Rebecca Makkai 32 34 Oct 08, 2013 08:45AM  
St. Giles CCW: Amusing... 2 7 Aug 22, 2013 06:42AM  

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"Rebecca Makkai is the author of the short story collection MUSIC FOR WARITIME (Viking, 2015) and the novels THE HUNDRED-YEAR HOUSE and THE BORROWER. Her short stories have appeared in four consecutive issues of THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES (2008-2011). She lives in Chicago and Vermont." ...more

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Susan Orlean, the author of The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession and staff writer for The New Yorker, is back on bookshelves...
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“I might be the villain of this story.” 47 likes
“I believed that books might save him because I knew they had so far, and because I knew the people books had saved. They were college professors and actors and scientists and poets. They got to college and sat on dorm floors drinking coffee, amazed they'd finally found their soul mates. They always dressed a little out of season. Their names were enshrined on the pink cards in the pockets of all the forgotten hardbacks in every library basement in America. If the librarians were lazy enough or nostalgic enough or smart enough, those names would stay there forever.” 38 likes
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