This summer, as I’ve sat on a camping chair watching children attempt to hit a tennis ball, I have spent a good deal of time reading urban, super-natural thrillers. Because if you can’t read trashy books, full of huge plot holes and vampires in the summer, then when can you?
However, sandwiched in between gore and cleavage, I have found time to read some really meaningful books. I’m not sure that I love these novels, that I’ll reread them over and over and be their best friend, but their stories have kept in my mind long after I finished the last page.
The book I want to tell you about today, gentle reader, is The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai. The plot is deceptively simple: a children’s librarian accidentally kidnaps her favorite young patron to protect him from his overbearing, overprotecting, homophobic mother.
But that’s not really the story, because if it were, the book would suck. I’m a loving mother and I can’t really condone kidnaping (accidental or deliberate.) The real story is the journey that Lucy the librarian and Ian the 10 year old make as they are driving across the country; journey of self-doubt and discovery.
What really pushes the book into awesome reading territory for me are the lovely allusions to some of the classics in children’s literature. If you are a fan of kid lit, you are going to love some parts of this book. Guaranteed. My absolute, favorite part is when the author mimics Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Catepillar:
“On Monday the bewildered librarian and the very strange child had a Three Musketeers bar, a Coke, some Pringles, a greasy pepperoni pizza, and two cheeseburgers. But they kept driving.”
That section is genius I tell you. I also liked one of the character’s description of The Wizard of Oz.
“…everyone is so weird, but they’re all completely accepted. It’s like, okay, you have a pumpkin head, and that guy’s made of tin, and you’re a talking chicken, but what the hell, let’s do a road trip.”
There are a hundred more lines and paragraphs that I adored, too many to list here. The symbolism of running away and of finding oneself in books is nicely done throughout the entire novel.
Would I say this is one of my favorite books? Not necessarily. At times I semi-loathed the main character, Lucy the librarian. (Seriously woman, stop with all the self doubting.) However, I will say, in all honesty, that this is the most rewarding book I’ve read all summer.