Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

This book had a lot of promise. A youth librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself attached to a precocious ten-year old patron. The kid "kidnaps" the librarian and they travel across the country finding adventure along the way.

Add in the fact that the librarian has a bit of bite to her wit, and I found myself really enjoying the beginning of the book. Then it went downhill.

The kid's parents are nutjobs. They (and apparently other people) think that the kid, Ian, is homosexual and they have been sending him to religious classes to "cure" him. The mother is very strict and is very particular in what she lets Ian read. The librarian, Lucy, sneaks Ian some of these "bad" books like Roald Dahl or books with wizards.

One night Ian hides out in the library and when Lucy comes in the next morning she finds him and agrees to take Ian to his grandmother's house. Only Ian is sort of fabricating the destination and they end up leaving Hannibal, then Missouri, then Chicago, then Pittsburgh, and ultimately find themselves in New England. The longer they are away, the more terrified Lucy gets at being caught and accused of kidnapping and the more difficult it is to extricate herself from the situation.

Along the way, though, she finds out a bit about herself. When Ian does finally return home, Lucy does not join him and she moves and pursues another career.

The book had some potential to be an uplifting story but it got a little too outlandish for my liking. Lucy's parents are from Russia and apparently still have some ex-mob connections. The whole kidnapping thing is a bit preposterous. I think the most annoying thing, though, was the attempts to cure Ian's homosexuality and how everyone seemed to think Ian was gay. Really? At age 10 the entire world can identify a child's sexual preference? Was it the subscription to Playgirl or his preference for show tunes and fashion design? Sadly, there wasn't anything so stereotypical to suggest why EVERYONE thought Ian liked guys. It just was a noticeable fact about Ian and that bothered me. I also thought Lucy, despite starting off as a strong figure, really is rather weak as the story develops.

This once again was a between ratings book and I'm siding with the lower rating again. Outlandish and disappointing despite a promising main character and it being a generally feel good story.

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