Monday, February 26, 2018

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Reviewed by Kristin

Lucy Hull enjoys being a children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri.  She’s one of the young ones on staff, and can really relate to the kids.  Lucy particularly enjoys Ian Drake, a ten-year-old with an insatiable appetite for books, even though his mother prefers that he read only those books with “the breath of God” in them.  Lucy and Ian soon become co-conspirators in the search for meaningful and enjoyable literature.

Lucy only wishes to be a little subversive, to allow Ian to explore ideas and the world around him through books.  Even though Lucy has her doubts about Mrs. Drake and her fundamentalist religion, she has no intentions of interfering in Drake family life.  When Lucy finds that Ian has hidden in the library overnight, she gives him a choice: she can call the police or she can take him home.  As she heads toward his house, Ian becomes distressed, and asks Lucy to just drive for a while.

And they keep on driving.

Ian is desperate not to go home, and Lucy indulges him for a while.  She makes a series of choices that lead the two of them from Missouri to Vermont, including a stop in Chicago to stay with her own parents, with Lucy becoming more and more uncomfortable with the fact that in allowing herself to be persuaded by Ian’s unhappiness, she has become a co-conspirator and in fact, a kidnapper.

I read The Borrower as part of my BPL Winter Book Bingo for “Read a Book by or about a Librarian.”  It definitely kept me turning the pages, but it made me extremely uneasy.  Just thinking about being in the situation of wanting to help a child, but also wanting to be a law-abiding non-kidnapping adult citizen, made me very tense.  Lucy felt that Ian was in soul-crushing (if not actual) danger, but once she made the choice to allow Ian into her car, or to cross outside the city limits, or to hit the highway to take Ian to his possibly fictional grandmother, Lucy just kept getting in deeper and deeper, until there was no backing out of the situation.

While this was an extremely compelling read, my own thoughts of what I would do in the same situation kept me nervous throughout the book.  I’d like to think that my law-abiding character would keep me from ever crossing any moral or ethical lines, but I can see why Lucy wanted to help Ian.  I can’t imagine taking a child somewhere without a parent’s consent, but I can feel the soul-wrenching agony that Lucy must have felt.

My verdict:  Well worth reading, but this one may fill you with ‘what ifs’ and keep you reading late into the night.

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