In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road.
Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. 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. Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. 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. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?
After I finished this book, my sister asked me what it was about. “A librarian who steals a boy,” I replied. She seemed nonplussed by this answer. “She’s Russian. Well, half Russian. Something about potatoes in exhaust pipes. Chocolate factories…” I trailed off, as she stared at me as though I was in the process of losing my mind.
What this tale serves to illustrate is that it’s quite hard to put into words what exactly happens in this novel, and even harder to explain why it’s so charming. While not exactly believable, The Borrower is realistic in the sense that it describes the day-to-day comings and goings of Lucy Hull, a children’s librarian in a small American town who seems to have stumbled into her job almost by accident. One of the regular features in her ordinary, unsatisfying life is Ian Drake, a young boy with a voracious appetite for literature, and a troubled home life. One night while she is locking up the library, she finds Ian hiding there and the two of them set off on an unplanned adventure.
The narrator’s constant references to her Russian heritage teeter on the edge of being annoying. On the whole I found these references quite amusing and touching, though other readers may find them tiring. Lucy isn’t the most likeable character, and I struggled slightly in sympathising for her seemingly non-existent problems.
However, this novel was charming and enjoyable. Waterstones sent me a free copy after I entered a competition on their website, and while I might never have chose it myself, I’m glad that I was given the chance to read it.