I’ve now bought three copies of The Borrower, and I need to buy another, because I keep spontaneously mailing them off to friends and family. It’s one of those books that I feel a need to evangelize, with a powerful message about what it means to love books, and the many ways that literature can provide liberation and comfort. Read it, and grab an extra copy for the reader in your life. You’ll need it.
Rebecca Makkai’s first novel is an absolute joy, a quirky literary escapade full of heart, wide-eyed curiosity, and good intentions. Lucy is biding her time post-college as a children’s librarian when she finds herself kidnapping her favorite patron, a 10-year-old who is running away from his overbearing, value-driven home. What ensues is a road trip that enlightens both the past and the future. It’s a remarkably smart and thoughtful ode to the human spirit and to the literature that keeps it alive.
June 2011 Indie Next List
“A 26-year-old children's librarian, Lucy Hull, allows herself to be 'kidnapped' by one of her precocious 10-year-old patrons, a boy intent on running away from home. The pair end up on a hilarious road trip that ping-pongs them across the Midwest and out to the East Coast. Makkai's writing is sharp and funny, and book lovers will enjoy the many references to well-known titles, from echoes of the road trip in Lolita to a chapter that is structured like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. What a wonderful, assured, and original debut!”
— Shuchi Saraswat, Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA
The first novel from the acclaimed author of The Great Believers
"Rarely is a first novel as smart and engaging and learned and funny and moving as The Borrower." —Richard Russo, author of Pulitzer Prize–winning Empire Falls
Lucy Hull, a children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. Ian needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes. 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?
About the Author
Rebecca Makkai is the author of the novels The Great Believers, The Hundred-Year House, and The Borrower, as well as the short story collection Music for Wartime. The Great Believers was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and received the ALA Carnegie Medal and the LA Times Book Prize, among other honors. Makkai is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University, and she is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago.
"Rarely is a first novel as smart and engaging and learned and funny and moving as The Borrower. Rebecca Makkai is a writer to watch, as sneakily ambitious as she is unpretentious."—Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize winning author of That Old Cape Magic and Empire F
“An appealing, nonromantic love story about an unexpected pairing—and a surprisingly moving one.”—The New York Times
“This comical and touching book strikes a nice balance between literary artistry and gripping storytelling, and offers a contemporary take on the classic “journey of discovery.”…Right up to the book’s satisfying and well-plotted ending, Makkai shows us that even though the stories we are told as children are often fount to betray us as mere fantasy, there might still be some wisdom in the one of their most common and simple morals: Be true to yourself.”—The Daily Beast, Selected as one of "3 Must Read Novels"
“Rebecca Makkai’s The Borrower is full of books, libraries, cross-country hijinks, accidental parenting, love gone wrong and friendships gone right. 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.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
“In the hilariously off-kilter world Makkai creates, it makes perfect sense that 26-year-old children’s librarian Lucy Hull and her favorite reading-obsessed patron, 10-year-old Ian Drake, should ‘kidnap’ each other and take a loopy road trip. Clever riffs on classic kid lit pepper the sparkling prose, making this first novel a captivating read.”—Parade Magazine
“How could any reader of any age resist Rebecca Makkai’s charming The Borrower, a novel that tracks the relationship between a 20-something librarian and a 10-year-old boy with punitive parents. 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!) story, it manages, with good humor and wry self-knowledge, to read our minds.”—O, Oprah Magazine
“A lively, lovely read that delicately weaves together social activism, literary culture and the quintessential road trip motif into a single solid adventure tale…Reading The Borrower is like taking a blissfully nostalgic journey into the bookshelves of American childhood.”—WSJ.com
“A wise and likable tale about the difficulty of protecting a precocious imagination.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Poignant...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.”—The Chicago Tribune