Is the Librarian the Borrower or the Borrowed?

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Lucy Hull is a children’s librarian in a small town who finds herself in an impossible situation when one of her favourite patrons runs away from home.

Ian Drake in only ten years old but he is wise beyond his years. He loves reading and getting his hands on books that his mother would not approve of. She specifically asked the librarian to make sure every book he reads or checks out is written with “the breath of God.”

Lucy finds out that Ian’s parents have been sending him to a preacher who runs a program to cure homosexuality in young boys. She is horrified by this news and hates the fact that his parents censor his reading material. She manages to sneak books in that would pass a cursory inspection from his parents and still speak to his innate curiosity and interest in reading.

One night, Ian is able to hide in the library when it closes. Lucy discovers him the next morning before anyone else knows he ran away from home. Together they embark on a road trip and run away together. Lucy feels like a kidnapper, but she also feels like she’s the one who has been kidnapped.

She is able to cover her absence from work for a week with little problem because she had talked about taking some time off. Things happened to work in her favour. The police also didn’t suspect any ill-play and treated the case as a simple run away.

The two go on a long road trip, even crossing state lines. Lucy learns a lot about herself during this escapade. While the reader might expect this to be a coming of age story for Ian, it is more so one for Lucy.

As a teacher and a librarian, I can understand the impulse to rescue a child from a family. In fact, I just wrote about the television show Rita, and she stated her reason for getting into teaching to “protect children from their parents.”

Overall, this was a good read. You will wonder how it will end. Will she go to jail? Can she actually return to her old life if she doesn’t get caught? Would she even want to? Can she keep Ian from his family? All great questions, and they will be answered by the time you get to the last page.

My List of 2020 Reads – my annual reading (b)log