Books as salvation. Literature as inspiration. An homage filled with references to children’s books. Sounds like a perfect read for book lovers. The Borrower also works for teens, perhaps especially teens who were recently voracious readers of children’s books. But the appeal goes beyond that — it’s also a road trip novel and a coming-of-age (as much for the librarian as for the young boy).
In an excellent interview found in the Penguin Reader’s Guide, Rebecca Makkai reveals her principal inspirations, The Wizard of Oz, Huck Finn and Lolita, and a minor one, Ulysses. Her answers further show that she is obviously a librarian at heart.
MAKKAI, Rebecca. The Borrower: A Novel. 336p. Viking. Sept. 2011. Tr $25.95. ISBN 978-0-6700-2281-6. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–At 26, Lucy Hull believes she has settled into just the right job, working in the children’s room in the Hannibal, MO, public library. She’s escaped her shady Russian mafia childhood home in Chicago and is delighted with an extraordinarily engaging 10-year-old library fan, Ian Drake. Then Ian is caught up in his fundamentalist family’s efforts to “cure” his likely homosexuality, and he runs away to hide in the library. Against her better judgment, Lucy takes him on a road trip that includes at least seven states, being chased by a shady tracker, Ian’s ebullient riffs on children’s lit, roadside attractions, and living on the lam. In her debut novel, Makkai captures both Lucy and Ian with bittersweet realism, making this a story that teens who see themselves as either in need of rescue or as rescuers can take to heart. Lifelong readers will delight in Ian and Lucy’s shared thoughts on various children’s classics, while those in search of a funny, provocative road story won’t be disappointed. It’s a perfect pairing with the Belgian award winning film “Ma Vie en Rose” (1997), which also depicts a sensitively and sensibly treated youngster who has nontraditional concerns.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA