The Borrower

Lucy is a children's librarian in her mid-20s in a small city in Missouri, starting to become frustrated with the direction her life has taken. Maybe that makes her a little more receptive to the problems of 10-year-old Ian Drake, one of her regular patrons. One of the first signs of trouble was when he brought back Theater Shoes because his mother lets him read only "boy books," but Lucy slips him classics like My Side of the Mountain and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Soon, though, Mrs. Drake arrives to advise that "what Ian really needs right now are books with the breath of God in them."

Ian's parents are sending him to a ministry that promises to cure boys of their homosexual tendencies, and one morning Lucy opens the library to find Ian there--he has run away from home. Before long, he's emotionally blackmailed her into a cross-country road trip.

Granted, this is not the most convincing turn of events, and Makkai's efforts to finesse the story and keep the police away don't always ring true. She does, however, carve out an entertaining space in which Lucy's confrontation with her own life illusions gradually overshadows any attempt to "solve" Ian's sexuality crisis. The argument is handled sensitively; it's clear that Ian doesn't fully understand what's going on and why he's miserable, so Lucy tries not to attack his Christian faith while subtly encouraging him to accept himself. That grounding, and the great love for children's books that pervades the novel's voice, are sure to give The Borrower an extra boost of endearment for many readers. --Ron Hogan, founder of

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