The first novel from the acclaimed author of The Great Believers. A librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and an upsetting family history.
What sounds like the setup to a joke of questionable humor transforms into a charming debut novel in Rebecca Makkai’s hands ... It may seem inappropriate to call a novel involving a kidnapping heartwarming, but that’s exactly what The Borrower manages to be. Even as Lucy and Ian make ostensibly poor choices, you can’t help but root for this unlikely duo. Makkai tackles difficult subject matter like sexuality and identity with warmth and humor, and deftly avoids veering into overly saccharine territory ... a wonderful celebration of books and friendship, brimming with literary references and plenty of laughs.
Rebecca Makkai tips her hat to a shelf-load of children's literature, offering sly echoes of everything from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White to Where's Spot? By Eric Hill, while crafting her own distinctive sound in a first novel definitely not for kids. Makkai avoids almost all the pitfalls of debut fiction, including sentimentality and undigested autobiography, and though her plotting isn't as deft as her characterizations, the wonderfully nuanced closing pages more than make up for the occasional longueurs that precede them ... The momentum sags a good deal along the way ... What holds our interest is Lucy's sardonic, self-doubting narrative voice, and her refreshingly astringent relationship with Ian ... every conflicted word Lucy utters in Makkai's probing novel reminds us that literature matters because it helps us discover ourselves while exploring the worlds of others.
I had a problem with this otherwise charming, witty book that never seemed to occur to the author. A mother’s child has been stolen, kidnapped. He’s missing; he may be dead. Doesn’t this horror transcend every other consideration in this story? Looked at more closely, is Lucy a bookish bachelorette or a creepy sociopath? A kid is more important than a book, no matter how nasty the child or how beautiful the book. But I don’t think that’s what the author is saying, sadly enough.