The Robbers Library becomes a home-away-from-home for a cast of misfit characters looking to make sense of their lives, including teenaged Sunny, who's doing community service, librarian Kit, and Rusty, a down-on-his luck Wall Street banker.
Halpern’s descriptions of Kit and Cal as 'friendly and companionable' and 'happily enough married' are clearly intended to show Kit’s failure to examine anything under the surface — but the surface itself is too often unexamined as well. Despite these flaws, the novel pays off in sheer plotting. Much as she gave the in-laws a very particular kind of awfulness, Halpern crafts a gratifyingly unexpected, effective answer to the question of what happened between Kit and Cal, with outed secrets and surprising solutions that she plays for minimum melodrama and with realistic warmth. Like Riverton itself, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library feels artfully balanced between the reality of loss and a carefully guarded hope for renewal.
Told partly from Sunny’s perspective and partly from Kit’s, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library uses the differences in the two protagonists’ ages, experiences and upbringing to its advantage. With her new novel, Sue Halpern offers the perfect way to experience a small-town community filled with lovable characters, mysterious happenings, a little bit of romance and hopeful ending.
This intense character-exploration story draws you along wondering, What the heck happened to Kit to make her so closed to human relationships? The novel’s structure carefully conceals the answer until the end. Little clues are trickled out, enough to give you some ideas and keep your curiosity a-humming; meanwhile, the author adroitly distracts you with other people’s sad and sometimes oddball tales ... So, quietly and eloquently, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library seduces you into caring about a cast of characters representing people you probably know, if not yourself, too. It provokes deep thoughts and exposes profound truths in a classic literary style without taking itself too seriously. Kit’s sarcastic honesty, Sunny’s undaunted curiosity, and Rusty’s blithe resilience lead them all to get what they deserve in an upbeat way.