Librarians are often gun shy when reading books about other librarians for fear of the way they may be portrayed between the covers. Rebecca Makkai’s protagonist, Lucy Hull, a children’s librarian in her first novel, The Borrowers, may not be a fair representation of the profession, but the original and quirky storyline will certainly keep you turning the pages.
Lucy’s world is turned upside down after she finds her favorite patron, 10 year old Ian, in the Library when she opens the building one morning. Ian has run away from home and camped out overnight in the Children’s Room unbeknownst to the Library officials. For a while, Lucy has felt uneasy about Ian and the struggles he seems to be having in his fundamentalist home. To Lucy’s dismay, Ian’s overbearing mother is very strict and rigid about which books she will allow Ian to read and she has excluded many popular children’s books and classics from his accepted reading list. She and her husband have also made an assumption that Ian may be gay and have signed him up for a course at the Glad Heart Ministries, an organization “dedicated to the rehabilitation of sexually confused brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Lucy is a bit of a firebrand and struggles with the typical librarian’s passion for protecting the First Amendment. She is concerned about Ian’s rights and well being but somehow thinks that kidnapping or ‘borrowing’ him may be the way to right the wrongs in his life. Ian and Lucy embark on a multistate trip while she tries to figure out the best way to help him. While on the run, the duo have a number of adventures and in the midst of all the excitement and chaos, Lucy still manages to introduce Ian to many fine children’s books .
While some of the scenes may require the reader to suspend their disbelief, there is much to discuss in this book which should become popular with the book club circuit. Who has the right to decide how parents educate their children? What rights do the children have? How do religious beliefs play into parents and their views about sexual orientation?
By all accounts, Makkai’s first novel bodes well for her future as an author. Her engaging and often whimsical writing style should be delightful read for many readers.