Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Of course I had to read this book. It's about a librarian.  Did I love it?  Mmmm. . .no.  Am I still thinking about it?  Yes.

Lucy Hull is a children's librarian who develops a relationship with one of her young patrons.  Ian's a nice kid, who may end up being gay, in fact it kind of looks that way.  But he's only ten, so at this point pretty asexual.  His mom is an overbearing, conservative, book banning sort.  Lucy manages to sneak him all the good books like The Egypt Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Stuff his mom would have a hissy fit over.Then Lucy discovers that Ian is being sent to some sort of religious anti-gay classes and she freaks out about it.  When Ian camps out at the library over night undetected by anyone, Lucy is presented with the dilemma of what to do with him.  Lucy doesn't take him home right away and pretty soon its too late and they end up kidnapping each other.

This book left me feeling conflicted.  The librarian in me was championing Lucy as she gave Ian all the books he needed to make sense of his world.  The mother in me felt a little bothered by the thought of some random person giving my child books to read based on her own agenda.  But, since I'd never place restrictions on what my girls read (rather I'd read it with them), I let it go.  But, when Lucy drives away with Ian and not only doesn't bring him back, but justifies it to herself as the morally right thing to do, I just couldn't get on board.  I am the only one in charge of screwing up my kid's life (hopefully not, though).  There's no way I can be led to sympathize with a kidnapper.

And yet. I'm not sure if Makkai really wants us to sympathize with Lucy. She never actually decided to kidnap Ian. It just worked out that way.  She never actually decides to do very much.  She just kind of floats through her own life and lets herself be buffeted about by other people's decisions.  She really is a hull of a person.

There's a lot more to this book than meets the eye.  And while I can't say that I enjoyed reading it--the main character irritated me too much--it was a good book in that I am still thinking about it two weeks later.

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