Review: The Borrower

July 24, 2011 Whitney Review 5 Comments

Review: The BorrowerThe Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
Published by Viking on June 9, 2011
Genres: General Fiction
Source: Library

In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road.

Lucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten- year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy's help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan. Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

Rebecca Makkai’s novel was told from the point of view of a librarian — someone who loves books, loves her job and her patrons. and there are book references on every page. Sounds like a book lover’s dream right?  Unfortunately, no.

Ian Drake is a ten-year old patron of the library whose parents have enrolled him in anti-gay classes.  Lucy Hull is a librarian at said library.  After discovering Ian early one morning camped out at the library takes it upon herself to “go for a drive” with Ian after passing judgement on the Drake’s parenting skills.

Once Lucy drove out of  Hannibal’s city limits the book began to fall apart.  Lucy criss-crossed  all over the U.S. letting Ian be the entertainment director.  After making a get-away to Chicago to visit her parents pulling Ian off as a child of a former high school friend who attempted suicide.  Her parents seem to buy this lukewarm lie and her father sends her off to the Pennsylvania to deliver a package to an old friend.

This is when it really gets weird.  After a successful drop off and the use of ferret shampoo they continue on with the pointless exponentiation, because now Lucy realizes after an Amber Alert that she is a wanted woman for kidnapping.  After what seems like hundreds of pages exclusively dedicated to fast food joints, Ian’s inhaler and “the license plate game” we wind up in Vermont, just outside the Canada border.  In Vermont, they visit the grave of Ian’s made up relative and some kind of boney finger relic at a church (this could be compared to the bagel Mother Teresa).  It is after this and becoming paranoid of a car following them (which is very Lolita/Humbert Humbert with out the pedophilia) that it is decided  that Ian should go home via the Greyhound.  Unfortunately, Lucy is now a suspect in a kidnapping  and can never return to Hannibal, Missouri.

The Borrower had so much potential but just didn’t live up to the book jacket.  I almost felt that the author was seeing just how obscure she could make it and fell into a black hole that she couldn’t come out of.  Rebecca Makkai kind of ties it up well with a “I’ll never let go Jack, I’ll never let go” ending but just not enough to make up for past mistakes and be king of the world.


5 responses to “Review: The Borrower

  1. I love Makkai's short stories and her style of writing, but this novel took a weird turn for me as well. I was too stressed out the whole time about what would happen to her at the end and I just wanted her to have the talk with Ian and not keep aimlessly driving! Loved the ending, but I did expect a lot more.

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