Quick Book Review: The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Rating: 4/5 stars
I got this book: from Dutch Publisher Orlando in return for a short review on their facebook page and website
I read this in: Dutch (De lener), the original language is English
Number of pages: 326
First published: 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction

This is a book about a children’s librarian who takes Ian, a 10-year old boy who spends a lot of time in the library, on a trip in her car and keeps going, until a short trip has turned into kidnapping.

Lucy, 26, isn’t too sure what to do with her life, and accepted the job of children’s librarian almost at random. One of her young customers is Ian. He’s 10 years old and is only allowed to borrow “real” stories. Anything with wizards or other fantastical stories are disapproved of by his strict religious parents.

When Lucy finds out Ian is forced to attend anti-homo classes every weekend (because people around him think he may be gay), she wants to do something to help him. A lift back home turns into a long car drive in which Ian convinces her to keep driving. When the point of no-return is reached, after which the road trip has certainly turned into a kidnapping, Lucy drives on.

During their trip they sleep in cheap motels and visit Lucy’s parents and, later, friends of Lucy’s parents. She discovers that her father’s past is different from what he always told her, although it is true that he escaped the communist USSR. A man in dark sunglasses follows Lucy and Ian around the country.

While Ian pretends he’s directing Lucy to the house of his grandmother in Canada, Lucy, who does not quite believe this, is looking for the right moment to tell Ian it’s time to go back home. She doesn’t have the heart to tell him that she will be going to prison and that they won’t be able to meet in the library any more after the trip is over.

This fluently written book was fun to read although not as thrilling as a story about a road trip by runaways could be. I would have liked to see some more exciting events. The man in the sunglasses was a fun element to the road trip, though.

Towards the end, the story deflated a little, but the ending was very acceptable. The book was a little flat, I would have liked a few more surprise elements, for instance, Lucy going wild a bit. She didn’t like to fulfil the expectations that people have of librarians, but really, other than driving away with Ian, she didn’t do much that was out of order.

The book had some chapters that were based on children’s stories – I recognised The Very Hungry Caterpillar – but then in terms of what Lucy and Ian were doing (“On Monday, the librarian and the child ate a Three Musketeers bar, a cola, etc.”). Those didn’t add a lot the the story but were fun to read.

In all, a good book to read, but maybe less exciting than you may expect from the premise.


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

17 Responses to Quick Book Review: The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

  1. Beth says:

    I agree that the story could have had a little more in store for the reader. BUT I did laugh out loud more times than I could count.. especially when they stay with the friends of her parents. It was a quick, fun read. Glad you enjoyed it too! I didn’t catch the references to other books.

  2. bibliosue says:

    I didn’t really like or dislike this book. I’m not sure what I was looking for when I started it, but it left me dissatisfied for some reason. I’m glad you enjoyed it though.

  3. I had indeed expected something more, Judith, when I read about it. It seems to be no more than a fun story. Glad you enjoyed it, though.

  4. This sounds extremely interesting. It definitely peaked my interest. Great review.

  5. I definitely would expect a bit more adventure based on the premise. Thanks for the heads up. Very helpful review.

  6. Susan Tunis says:

    I have read, but not yet reviewed, this novel. For me, I quite enoyed the first part of the novel, when she was just being a children’s librarian, but when she took the kid and ran I enjoyed the tale far less. I found it to be an okay read, but felt it could have been more.

    This book got a lot of critical acclaim, but I haven’t encountered a reader yet who really loved it. (Though I did catch and enjoy the sections written in homage of children’s books.)

    • Leeswammes says:

      Susan, thanks for stopping by. So you also expected more, I wasn’t the only one. I liked both the road trip and the first part in the library, though.

  7. cbjamess says:

    I’ve been attracted to the book because of the beautiful cover. I haven’t actually picked it up, though I’ve seen it in the bookstore several times.

    The story you describe is not the one I thought I’d find. Sounds interesting, but also like something I can wait a while before reading.

  8. Tesney Ap says:

    Another good pick 🙂 The plot looks really interest 🙂

  9. Katrien says:

    I’m currently reading this one, but I have just decided to stop, because it’s nothing for me. It’s a bit boring and the books that are mentioned I don’t know. But the Dutch cover was attracting!

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