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This started out wonderfully. I was immediately drawn the liberal librarian and the winsome boy whom she sneaks books to, books his parents obect to, but which are children's classics. The librarian's rationale is that the boy wants to read those books and she is not a censor. The ethical and moral issues here are never worked out. Do parents have the right to judge what books are suitable for their children? Do parents have the right to decide what religious beliefs their children should hold? Apparently not, since the parents are presented as unlikable tyrants.

The librarian who goes against their wishes is portrayed sympathetically. Actually, ethical, moral, and, ultimately, legal issues abound in this book, which is what kept me reading. At the end, Makkai seems to suggest that people who meddle, but who are on the "right" side of the fence, may be as guilty of playing with someone's life as those who are on the "wrong" side. Most readers will detest Ian's bigoted mother and Parson Bob, the anti-gay crusader, but Lucy's intervention doesn't square with Ian's beliefs, and what she does to "save" him is reprehensible in my opinion.

What was she saving him from? To what lengths will she go to save him? The plot finally fizzles out. Nothing is changed, as far as I could see. Thhe very real ethical issues raised are not resolved. The second half of this novel is an on-the-lam road trip. This should have been exciting, especially considering what went before. Makkai has drawn several memorable and interesting characters and portrays their activities with wit and vivid vignettes.

So, I found myself slogging through the road trip, thinking it would get better. It wasn't a bit believable. We learn nothing new about our heroine or about Ian. Journeys are usually written into novels to show character development. This one showed nothing except, perhaps, that the FBI and the police are mighty casual about an ostensibly kidnapped child. That shows in the first half of the novel, but the road trip is written in a very pedestrian manner, and the ending is unconvincing, at least to me.

Debut novelist and elementary schoolteacher Rebecca Makkai combines a wily, madcap road trip with socially poignant conundrums and multiple themes in this coming-of-age story about a twenty-six-year-old children's librarian, Lucy Hull, and a ten-year-old precocious book lover, Ian Drake, in fictional Hanibal, Missouri. Guess who is coming-of-age? Lucy isn't entirely sure that she's a reliable narrator--part of our reading pleasure is to figure that out. She tells us in t Debut novelist and elementary schoolteacher Rebecca Makkai combines a wily, madcap road trip with socially poignant conundrums and multiple themes in this coming-of-age story about a twenty-six-year-old children's librarian, Lucy Hull, and a ten-year-old precocious book lover, Ian Drake, in fictional Hanibal, Missouri.

She tells us in the enigmatic prologue "I'm not the hero of this story. And, if she is not the hero, who is?

The Borrower

The answers turn out to be thoughtfully complex and yet exquisitely simple for those of us--and only for those of us--whose love of reading is almost religious upside down pun there. Lucy has been sneaking laudable books to Ian, whose evangelical, anorexic mother, Janet, will only allow him to read books "with the breath of God in them. Oh, or contain a "sensitive" male character. Janet has enrolled her son in the Glad Heart Ministries youth group with Pastor Bob, in order to de-gayify her son for his proto-gay behaviors. Pastor Bob is a "former" homosexual married to a "cured" once-upon-a-time lesbian, who believes that "sexuality is a choice, not an identity.

One morning, when Lucy opens the library, she discovers that Ian has been camped out there all night.

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This sets the stage for the fugitive scene--adult and child on the lam, playing spontaneous road trip games and mimicking passages of children's books. OK, the reader needs to suspend a little judgment here on how Ian maneuvers this, but this is fiction, so waive a little realism for a little magic, capisce? Lucy, as it turns out, has some, ahem Her dad was a revolutionary, and his shady business dealings and questionable money sources have been a cause of discomfort all of Lucy's life. It seems she also has a knack for prevaricating. Her adult decisions have, up to this time, been aimed at not taking action in her life, other than putting distance between her and her parents.

She's "a would-be revolutionary stuck at a desk. Although she tries to remind herself that Ian maneuvered this odyssey, she acknowledges her complicity. Lucy wants to save Ian from the clutches of religiosity. She impugns Janet Drake for wanting to censor a highly intelligent boy's mettle. But is she trying to censor the censor? But the voice of her insurrectionist father vexes her. There are flaws, admittedly. Yet, they are easy to ignore when trumped by the nimble narrative and crack characterizations.

Librarians beware--Lucy doesn't have her Masters of Library Science. And, as mentioned above, the inadvertent "kidnapping" scene raises a few eyebrows of believability. But this beguiling story captivates, nonetheless. Ian and Lucy have a tart, biting relationship rather than a sentimental, precious one. Moreover, Lucy's subversive deeds in the name of social liberty are ripe and riveting. Makkai pushes the envelope, and the reader may wonder if the story will wax pedantic, but the author doesn't disappoint with easy answers; she doesn't manipulate Lucy's rant into her personal crusade.

It is a journey of self-discovery and sanctuary, finding home wherever you are, and having the courage to face your future. Oh how I wanted to love this book! It has so many things that I adore: The book turned out to be grounded more in farce than in reality, which would have been ok except that the protagonist was so dull you couldn't really root for her, and in a farce, you need to have some attachment to the main character in order to swallow all the unrealistic situations and coinci Oh how I wanted to love this book!

The book turned out to be grounded more in farce than in reality, which would have been ok except that the protagonist was so dull you couldn't really root for her, and in a farce, you need to have some attachment to the main character in order to swallow all the unrealistic situations and coincidences. Also this is not a spoiler but the main idea of the book she kidnaps a child!! She kidnaps a child!!! I don't care how bad she thinks his home life is, she should not have kidnapped the child. This book does a disservice to real librarians who work hard to get their MLS degrees, since Lucy Hull just plods her way into a job that actually requires some expertise.

I don't even want to get into the gay-kid aspect of the novel. It hits too close to home for me. Ian may or may not be gay the only reason he may be is because some adults think he is; that wasn't reason enough for me to buy into it. What, he's a voracious reader, has a soft voice and likes to sing? Most of the boys I know who fit that description are straight. The fundamentalist Christian aspect was, I think, handled more realistically.

And as long as I'm ripping this book a new one, can I just sayand I don't think this is pettythe Hush Puppy dog is a Bassett hound, not a beagle. She keeps calling it a beagle!! I kept waiting for someone to correct herGlenn or Ianbut no one did, and I can only assume that this point slipped past a bunch of people as the book was being readied for publication. I hated the ending, which really made me lose respect for the book.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

I might have been able to deal with all of the other stuff because I did love the literary references, the parodies, and the basic idea of the story. But the string of coincidences at the end were just silly. I wanted some triumph for Ian; I put so much time into making sure he was ok. Two and a half stars. I just can't round it up to three because I felt the pacing was off: They spent so much time at their final destination, time that didn't need to be spent, that I almost started to hate what is actually one of my very favorite states.

View all 5 comments. Apr 05, Darby Zimmerman rated it it was amazing Shelves: This book will have its detractors, and I imagine that most of them will have missed the sort of tongue-in-cheek, this-didn't-really-happen aspect of the book. Once the narrator tells you that you're supposed to call the town Hannibal, Missouri but that it's not really Hannibal, Missouri, and then confesses twenty pages in that she's already lied to you, I think all protestations of a story being unrealistic are null and void.

Lucy is an unreliable narrator -- my favorite kind -- and she takes This book will have its detractors, and I imagine that most of them will have missed the sort of tongue-in-cheek, this-didn't-really-happen aspect of the book. Lucy is an unreliable narrator -- my favorite kind -- and she takes you along on a very uncomfortable ride.

Lucy sort of kidnaps a child, or is kidnapped by him, depending on how you look at it. Makkai could have made this a much more clear-cut case, and we'd have been more naturally sympathetic to the narrator, but I think it's to her credit that she didn't. This book is weirdly post-modern, and not just in its borrowing of other texts, but in the way it yanks you around and makes you question what's even going on to begin with. Overall, one of the best debuts I've read in a really long time. And -- I never say this, but I mean it in the best possilbe way, forgive me literary people -- it would make a hell of a movie.

Jun 11, Kristin rated it it was amazing Shelves: But books, on the other hand: I do still believe that books can save you. They were college professors and actors and scientists and poets. They got to college and sat on dorm floors drinking coffee, amazed they'd finally found their soul mates.

They always dressed a little out of season. Their names were enshrined on the pink cards in the pockets of all the forgotten hardbacks in every library basement in America. If the librarians were lazy eno But books, on the other hand: If the librarians were lazy enough or nostalgic enough or smart enough, those names would stay there forever. View all 7 comments. May 30, Wanda rated it liked it Shelves: Being in library work myself, I usually adore books involving libraries and librarians. This one also references many books of childhood, another characteristic that I generally appreciate.

Although I tend to prefer ambiguous or realistic endings, I had problems with the wrap-up of this novel. At any rate, I had to really push myself to finish the book and was left less than satisfied when I turned the final page. That is one of the great pleasures of literature, its ability to make the unusual seem absolutely normal. May 26, Kathrina rated it it was amazing Shelves: I finished this book almost two weeks ago, but I've struggled in how to write this review. This book was a personal treasure to me, and writing my thoughts on it feel almost too intimate, too vulnerable, to bare to the world.

And that's strange to me, because this is not high literature, no one will be studying this in a classroom, and it likely will never be a bestseller, but it spoke to me, or maybe echoed to me, all the things I try to say about what drives me and what I want to do with my li I finished this book almost two weeks ago, but I've struggled in how to write this review. And that's strange to me, because this is not high literature, no one will be studying this in a classroom, and it likely will never be a bestseller, but it spoke to me, or maybe echoed to me, all the things I try to say about what drives me and what I want to do with my life.

We are all on this planet for a reason, or it helps to think we are, and my reason is to be the kidnapping librarian. The narrator, Lucy, is scatterbrained and self-doubting, uncertain of the values she's inherited and infuriated by the values she's confronted with that aim to block and submerge any sense of self-awareness. But she's certain that a reading life opens doors we didn't even know were blocking the view, and if she can pass on anything at all, it is that knowledge, that there are worlds and beliefs and perceptions on the other side of the door.

This urgent belief is framed inside a charming plot -- charming not in action, but in how Lucy chews through her thoughts and shares or doesn't share with her year-old charge, Ian. By the end of this narrative we understand that this is only the beginning of the journey for Ian, and a difficult one it will be, but Lucy provides in the best way she knows how, by suggesting the titles that can see him through each year of young adulthood -- the books that will help him to see himself.


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What an awesome gift, and what a tribute to the work of all the best librarians, booksellers and English teachers. Isn't this why we do it? As inglorious as a kidnapping, shelving, stickering, endlessly recommending, reading aloud May 08, Kassel rated it it was ok. Forget that that the book is decidedly liberal. Forget that it's anti-George Dubya Bush.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Forget that it's pretty much anti-evangelical. A librarian should not be so obsessed with a year-old boy and her infatuation with the boy starts the book out on the creepy foot. Everyone has decided from the get-go that poor year-old Ian Drake is bound to become some kind of homosexual including his parents. Problem is, Lucy's not a very interesting character.

She tries to convince us she is, but she's really not. I finished the book only because it was a book club selection. Lucy's obsession with Ian, however, hits a high point when she and Ian hit the road from Hannibal, Missouri and drive across the country to Vermont with stops in Chicago and Pittsburgh. They somehow kidnap each other except what happens along the way isn't really all that interesting.

Somewhat interesting characters like Glenn, Lucy's sort-of boyfriend, and Rocky Walters readers are unsure of Lucy's romantic status with him are dropped in, only to be disposed of thoughtlessly by the end of the book. To be honest, I wasn't sure what Glenn added to the story except for a twist during one scene. Lucy makes it all the way to Vermont with Ian and how will she and Ian get back to Missouri? Well, she put him on a Greyhound bus with some reliable, former ex-KGB operative.

Lucy, however, decides to hightail it back to Chicago where her parents live and loaf around for a while, leaving her job in Hannibal as a children's librarian. Lucy learns she can't change Ian, and I think the road trip was a symbolic journey that was supposed to change her, and it somewhat does, but as a reader, I don't care. I am not invested in Lucy. Her father is an interesting character, but Lucy herself is not as interesting. I guess this is a long enough review. There were some good parts to the book I'd give it 2. The beginning didn't capture me either.

It might have made for a more interesting book if she'd confronted Ian's parents, but that's just me. Aug 05, Caren rated it it was ok Shelves: I wanted to read this book because the blurb said it was about a children's librarian. Well, that wasn't exactly true. The protagonist is a twenty-something college grad who happens to work in the children's section of a small town library, but she has not actually had any professional training no masters degree, in other words.

I couldn't see that she had had any prior experience of any kind with children, so one wonders how she landed this job.

READERS GUIDE

There must have been a dearth of applicants and I wanted to read this book because the blurb said it was about a children's librarian. There must have been a dearth of applicants and the pay must have been very low. She does seem to have been very familiar with children's books. In fact, I really enjoyed the little bits of doggerel written in the style of well-known children's classics which appear throughout the book. Somehow, I couldn't really sympathize with Lucy. In fact, she drove me crazy with her ill-thought-out jumping from one plan of action to another.

Was the author trying to hint at her immaturity? She was also extremely strident in her viewpoints. I don't knowI somehow found her quite irritating. The young patron she befriends, Ian, was also somewhat irritating to me. Oh heck, the whole book was a disappointment. I'll leave it at that. Apr 29, Vonia rated it it was amazing Shelves: Every single time I believed The Borrower could not be more reflective of my childhood reads, another of my favorite titles was mentioned. There are only two titles to Where to begin? A librarian and a boy on the run. When I read the reviews on this book, they all seemed to imply a lighthearted caper, which confused me as it also seemed to be about a librarian who kidnaps a child.

Now having finished it, I didn't find the book to be very light-hearted and it's not about a kidnapping. You can quibble about whether or not the story is realistic, but the deeper truth is one that anyone who works with children I teach second grade can identify with. There are children that you w A librarian and a boy on the run. There are children that you wish that you could take home with you. There are children whose families do not seem to understand what a treasure they have. There are children who you wish had better lifes or just different lifes. There are children that you think that you should save.

So you try to give them the skills to save themselves. You try to get them to see what a great resource they have within themselves. You try to lead them to books as a way to not only escape, but also to see that there is so much beyond what they know or can see.

You hope that you helped, but you will probably never know. I loved this book and I know that I'll think about it for a long time to come. Jul 01, Cody rated it it was amazing. I really enjoyed Rebecca Makkai's style of writing. She did not follow the main-stream, continuous, and often stuffy structure. Instead, she opted for a more stream of consciousness set-up that established a more direct connection with me. Breaking away from the narrative to inject humor and wit by adding lists and diagrams absolutely cracked me up.

I very much look forward to reading her upcoming work as I honestly felt connected and engaged to her as an author. It w In general: It was refreshing to get the take on a gay issue from the perspective of a strong-willed straight female narrator. Gay literature tends to be extreme; either essentially erotica or snooty, uppity literature that prides itself on being so droll and witty. This novel casts no such aspersions; it's genuine in its heart. Speaking of which, it's difficult for me to engage in literature that I can't relate to in some way. I've noticed a lot of novels are about women who are losing their mind What I took out of it: Running away from your problems isn't going to solve them.

There will always be parents even if one cuts communication off from them. As the person in the situation, it's going to take time to grow and mature. Lucy was expecting an epiphany from Ian. A ten-year old needs to figure stuff out, not necessarily be told. As an outsider to these kinds of situations, despite being frustrating and even painful to watch, one just always has to provide help in any way they can, but rash, unplanned, undirected action really won't solve anything.

It's just movement, not progress. It is however necessary sometimes to break out of the routine and reveal new truths. At least that's what I got out of it. Mar 24, Bill Khaemba rated it really liked it Shelves: Oh my God this was really good I didn't expect to like that much: Now and again, in between all the new books I read, I try to pick something older off my long-suffering to-read pile.

I was quite surprised when I glanced over the blurb for The Borrower and found it described as 'delightful, funny and moving'. Somehow, in the five years it's been hovering around the fringes of my reading plan, I'd formed an impression of it as a dark story with transgressive elements.

The Borrower Reader’s Guide

And the opening chapters only added to that — the first line is 'I might be the villain of thi Now and again, in between all the new books I read, I try to pick something older off my long-suffering to-read pile. And the opening chapters only added to that — the first line is 'I might be the villain of this story'; immediately afterwards, the narrator compares herself to Humbert Humbert.

This dramatic voice is, however, not sustained, and gives way to a softer tale of unlikely friendships and quirky misadventures. The Borrower was Rebecca Makkai's first novel. Its central character is Lucy Hull, a twentysomething children's librarian in a small Missouri town: The trouble begins when Ian's evangelical mother comes to the library with a long list of themes he is not allowed to read about, including the likes of wizards, Halloween and evolution.

Later, Lucy discovers Ian's family have also enrolled him in Bible classes run by a pastor notorious for his attempts to 'cure' what he calls 'Same-Sex Attraction Disorder'. When Ian runs away, Lucy attempts to take him home, but he misdirects her, and what unfolds after that is a sort of inadvertent kidnapping. There is something of the zany comedy about this novel, what with the eccentric Russian relatives, Lucy's cornball boyfriend turning up during the middle of the kidnapping-cum-road-trip, and the odd-couple bond between Lucy and Ian.

The dichotomy between tone touching, comic and actual plot adult taking someone else's child on the run makes the narrative feel uneven; with that said, I found it very involving. A prologue that seems to give away the ending is often an irritating thing, but in this case it adds to the intrigue. I couldn't see how the scenario could possibly play out without Lucy ending up in prison, yet the prologue suggests she is indeed free — and still working as a librarian.

While certainly not as good as Makkai's The Hundred Year House or her short story collection Music for Wartime , The Borrower is an entertaining novel, a story that keeps sparking interest without ever quite catching fire. There's also a deep, dark streak running through it — perhaps it's telling that the book it most reminded me of was the much more disturbing Lamb.

And the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that the twee ending, wrapped up in a neat message about the power of reading, doesn't fit with the rest of the story at all. TinyLetter Twitter Instagram Tumblr Feb 05, Holly rated it really liked it Shelves: We need more books with children's librarians as the main character! What a great concept. And the ending was perfect. I loved that I was reading this during a long car ride with lots of hotel stops from Indiana to South Dakota , because the librarian is on a long car ride too, without knowing her destination or when the trip will be over.

The other main character in the story, year-old Ian, is great too--I can picture him perfectly: I highly recommend this to all the librarians I know, plus my sister who is an honorary librarian. Aug 14, Christian rated it it was ok. I found it really hard to connect to the characters in this book.

Which was very disappointing. When I initially read the description for the book I was very moved by the idea of having a heartwarming story about a person trying to protect a young gay boy from his religious family and finding herself inadvertently kidnapping him. However, all the characters in the book were really 2-dimensional and quite frankly annoying and I found it impossible to to side with any of them. Ian, the little bo I found it really hard to connect to the characters in this book.

Ian, the little boy, was really never allowed to become a well rounded character who goes through his own journey in understanding the circumstances he was living in and finding who he wanted to be. He really just became a tool through which the main protagonist came to understand how lost she really felt in her own life. Desperate to save him from the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian when she finds him camped out in the library after hours, and the odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip. But is it just Ian who is running away? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road. 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. 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. Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? Rebecca Makkai is a writer to watch, as sneakily ambitious as she is unpretentious. Be true to yourself. Makkai will have you cheering for her librarian heroine, who has all the history and darkness of a Russian novel in her veins, mixed with the humor and spirit of Bridget Jones.

A fun, moving, and delightful read.

The Borrower (1991) - Trippy Scenes

Clever riffs on classic kid lit pepper the sparkling prose, making this first novel a captivating read. Part caper the two take off on a road trip that has moments of danger but never turns dark , part coming-of-age and not just for the kid! About The Borrower In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road. Also by Rebecca Makkai.