Molly's Reviews > The Book Borrower

The Book Borrower by Alice Mattison
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Jun 17, 2012

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Read from June 17 to 18, 2012

The writing was dreamy, disconnected, and somehow also matter-of-fact, and in a way I appreciated. A sample:

"One morning Peter walked out of the house to go to middle school and ten minutes later the phone rang. She knew from Harry's voice that it was bad. Peter had stepped off the curb into a moving car. Harry made her take off her nightgown and put on clothes before she ran. Ruben ran down the street. It was the day in November--it happens once a year, after a rainstorm--when many leaves fall at once. Suddenly there are more open spaces than leaves, and everything's yellow. Ruben ran crying in the new yellow day, with new sky. Near the school, Peter lay on the ground next to an ambulance, a collar around his neck.

But he was fine. The teacher who called Harry had begun by saying, Peter's all right, but Ruben hadn't believed him.

For a week, she and Deborah, day after day, said, There is no safety. There is no safety. Ruben's uncle died. Harry's uncle died. Two young women in Ruben's class brought her presents on the same day: a piece of spanakopita and an apricot Danish. She ate one before class and one after, feeling cared for. The baby-faced girl with long curls who brought the spanakopita said, You talked about spanakopita once. You said you liked it. Yes you did, yes you did." (100)

This book is intricate and would be a highly teachable text, with themes weaving and surfacing and darting back, development of complicated characters, revelations, reliability of narration.

I was unsatisfied with the ending, though--possibly also because the title and the book description really didn't touch on the heart of this story. The blurb on the front, speaking of friendship between women, is more accurate, more penetrating of the text. The closing action, which refers back to the title, is something I was less interested in than the other themes throughout.
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