Friday, June 7, 2019

The Borrower

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (2011)

Lucy Hull is a children's librarian who has befriended a 10-year-old boy named Ian. His parents are religious and start being very strict about what he can and cannot read. Fearing that he may be gay they start sending him to some group run by Pastor Bob, a guy known for being anti-gay and trying to convert people to be straight. Ian becomes increasingly unhappy and manages to stay overnight in the library one night. When Lucy finds him in the morning and tries to take him home, they instead end up driving across the country together.

So yes, she absconds with a kid, which is a terrible idea. She knows it will be considered kidnapping and tries very hard not to leave any tracks. He sort of manipulated her into it, but she didn't really try to resist. The whole thing was questionable and while bad ideas often turn into great stories, that wasn't my experience in this case.

It's not that it wasn't amusing or entertaining. It was! Ian was a clever and quirky kid and I can totally see why Lucy wanted to protect him. Their from Missouri continued to Lucy's parents' house in Chicago, and her father is Russian with crazy stories and ties to some pretty sketchy people. He tells her that since she's driving east she should deliver a box from him to his Russian friends in Pittsburgh, and that's another entertaining visit. All the while, she sticks to her story about Ian's mother being in the hospital and entrusting Lucy with her care. Back home, her coworkers are starting to suspect she might have something to do with the boy's disappearance but she staves off their questions as much as possible. It's all written in a fairly humorous lighthearted way.

But in addition to the dubious premise, it never really went anywhere. I mean, road trips are always fun and they definitely had some adventures, but in the end it was all rather a letdown. I don't know that anyone learned much or grew from the experience - it was just kind of over.

I really should like this book more than I did. I feel like it's similar in many ways to a number of books that I really do like - book lovers are always great to read about, and I love quirky characters and road trips and humor. But somehow it just didn't do it for me. I feel bad giving it only two stars on Goodreads because it's not a bad story and the writing is totally fine. But what I keep thinking is "it was ok" which is literally the definition of two stars on Goodreads. So two stars it is.

Stupidly, what made me pick up this book is all the attention that her newest book The Great Believers has been getting. Rather than just reading that one (which I still may) I thought that if that one was good, then surely I'd love the one that has something to do with book lovers, right?

I think I've been in something of a reading rut, because I wasn't excited about this book when I started but there wasn't nothing else in my tall pile of books that was looking more compelling to me. And that tall pile is still here and I don't know what I'm going to read next. So book, maybe it's not you, maybe it's me. Lots of people really like The Borrower so this is one perhaps you all shouldn't take my word for.

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