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The Borrower: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Rebecca Makkai
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $5.01 (31%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

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?

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Makkai shows promise in her overworked debut, an occasionally funny crime farce about a hapless librarian–cum–accidental kidnapper. Lucy Hull is a 26-year-old whose rebellion against her wealthy Russian mafia parents has taken the form of her accepting a children's librarian job in smalltown Missouri. After an unnecessarily long-winded first act, the novel picks up when Lucy discovers her favorite library regular, 10-year-old Ian Drake, hiding out in the stacks one morning after having run away from his evangelical Christian parents, who censor his book choices and are pre-emptively sending him to SSAD (Same-Sex Attraction Disorder) rehab, and Lucy soon aids and abets his escape. The tale of their subsequent jaunt across several state lines dodging cops, a persistent suitor of Lucy's, and a suspicious black-haired pursuer is fast-paced, suspenseful, and thoroughly enjoyable—the real meat of the book. Unfortunately, the padding around the adventure too often feels like preaching to the choir (censorship is bad, libraries and independent booksellers are good) and the frequent references to children's books—including a "choose-your-own adventure" interlude—quickly go from cute to irritating. There's great potential, but it's buried in unfortunate fluff. (June)


"[Lucy's] relationship with Ian is charming and original...A stylish and clever tale for bibliophiles who enjoy authors like Jasper Fforde and Connie Willis."
-Library Journal

"Makkai takes several risks in her sharp, often witty text, replete with echoes of children's classics from Goodnight Moon to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as well as more ominous references to Lolita . . . the moving final chapters affirm the power of books to change people's lives even as they acknowledge the unbreakable bonds of home and family. Smart, literate and refreshingly unsentimental."
-Kirkus Reviews

"The Borrower proves [Makkai] is a great writer...This is a wonderfully entertaining story packed with moral conundrums and beautiful writing."
-Patrick Neale, co-owner, Jaffé & Neale Bookshop & Café, in The Bookseller

Product Details

  • File Size: 2113 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 9, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,536 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Farfetched but entertaining June 9, 2011
The premise of Rebecca Makkai's entertaining first novel is farfetched. Librarian Lucy Hull takes an unintended road trip with ten-year-old Ian Drake, son of fundamentalist parents who have enrolled Ian in classes held by the notorious Pastor Bob, a "formerly" gay man who conducts classes designed to turn gay kids straight. To Lucy's dismay, Ian's mother seems intent on saving him from the evil world of children's literature. The road trip, taken without the knowledge or consent of Ian's parents, brings Lucy and Ian into contact with the man Lucy is dating (a musician whose most recent composition resembles the Mr. Clean jingle) and her father, a Russian immigrant with a hidden past and shady ties to organized crime who is nonetheless a decent fellow -- at least when it comes to Lucy. If the road trip happened in the real world, reporters would be asking Lucy "What were you thinking?" as she's hauled off to prison. It's never quite clear, even to Lucy, what she's thinking, but the unlikely set-up makes it possible for Makkai to tell a funny story. Makkai somehow manages to make it seem real, or perhaps the story has sufficient charm to encourage the reader's suspension of disbelief.

As much as I enjoyed the story, I was left with a "Is that all there is?" feeling at the novel's end, which seems too neat and painless given the improbable events that precede it. As I finished reading I was wondering what point Makkai intended to make. Of course, not all novels need to have a point; it's often enough to tell a good story while introducing the reader to believable characters. Yet The Borrower seems determined to deliver a message. In that task, the novel fails -- or, at least, I failed to find a coherent message.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for book club discussions July 11, 2011
By Sarah
The Borrower is a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read. It's the story of Lucy Hull, a children's librarian from Hannibal, Missouri, who befriends a 10-year-old patron named Ian. When Lucy finds out that Ian's parents are sending him to an evangelical camp that specializes in "correcting" homosexual tendencies in boys, she is horrified. Together, Lucy and Ian kidnap each other and head off on a cross-country adventure that causes Lucy to question her essential purpose and, ultimately, the choices she's made.

Makkai fills the book with all sorts of literary references, from Lolita and Crime & Punishment, to Goodnight Moon and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Fans of children's literature will be particularly delighted by the little gifts that Makkai includes throughout her prose. (My favorite: the nod to the Choose Your Own Adventure books - loved it!)

The Borrower was funny and moving and frustrating in equal parts. Ian was charmingly precocious, but Lucy was extraordinarily complex - what rational adult kidnaps a child and manages to convince herself that it's the right thing to do? And yet who can fault that same adult for trying to make a child feel loved for who he is? Makkai said that she wanted her protagonist to exist in a moral "grey area," and she clearly succeeded. The Borrower is a thoughtful and creative book that would be an excellent choice for any book club and a wonderful gift for fans of literary fiction.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in a while ... June 11, 2011
By phmmd
This is one of those books that really sticks with you. If you are a voracious reader, as I am, or if you have young children, as I do, you will catch (and be able to place) many of the literary references that the author includes in the book. Those make the book more interesting, but catching them is certainly not required to appreciate the novel's meaning or, certainly, to enjoy it. They just, in my opinion, make the ride more worthwhile.

References aside, this is a fabulous book. It's relentlessly engrossing, but it's not your typical summer "beach read". It's so much more than that. It's a book lover's book in the best possible way, and not just because of the literary references. It's one of the first books I've read in a long time that I literally haven't been able to put down. And now that I've finished it, I wish I had read it more slowly so that I could still be enjoying it.

A unique and very interesting plot, relatable and entertaining characters, and a plethora of "morals of the story". All spun together by someone who clearly has a way with words; Makkai is a fabulous storyteller, and I eagerly await her next work. Read this book now. You won't regret it.
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a delightful novel about the relationship between a librarian and one of her ten-year-old patrons. As is true of readers, appreciation of the same books builds bonds that transcend differences in age, circumstances, and time, besides breeding understanding that the non-reader will never grasp. This plot is fanciful and far-fetched, but engaging. It is not far-fetched in its emphasis on how books of fiction broaden and ease the challenges of reality. I read a review in a magazine prior to publication, and bought this book for my Kindle within two hours of its release. I had finished reading it in less than 24 hours, and enjoyed every word.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story and something a bit different!
I really enjoyed this book. I would describe it as different.It was a great story and I found it totally believable although I have read others do not agree. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Anne Leadbeatter
4.0 out of 5 stars clever
An interesting book. I am glad I read it. Perhaps a little heavy handed at the end in terms of what is real and what is not. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lauren and Justine's Mom
5.0 out of 5 stars If you were that kid who devoured a book a day - you'll love this book
This was a book I couldn't put down, and made me cry at the end. This book is like a love letter to the adults in our lives who guide us to books: to teachers, and librarians, and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by CJ
5.0 out of 5 stars sequel?
I loved that Ian was the primary "borrower" and that Lucy was so open to making everything happen for him. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Melinda McMahan
3.0 out of 5 stars didn't love it
This is the story of a young librarian in a small town who befriends young patron Who she believes is being mistreated by his evangelical parents. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Devour this now!
This book is a riot and I can't stop thinking about it! It's quite an art to pull reader's into a story so quickly. Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. Penn
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed the development of the relationship between the librarian and the boy.
Published 4 months ago by BetsyM
3.0 out of 5 stars Her favorite patron is 10-year-old Ian
Lucy is a small town children’s librarian. Her favorite patron is 10-year-old Ian, whose mother doesn’t want him reading anything she deems “inappropriate. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Melody
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Elizabeth M. Holland
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Published 6 months ago by Jennifer Bakula
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More About the Author

Rebecca Makkai is the author of two novels, The Hundred-Year House (2014) and The Borrower (2011), and of a short story collection forthcoming in 2015. Her work was chosen for The Best American Short Stories in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and appears regularly in publications such as Harper's, Tin House, Ploughshares, New England Review and Ecotone, and on public radio's This American Life and Selected Shorts. The recipient of a 2014 NEA Fellowship, Rebecca teaches at Lake Forest College, Sierra Nevada College and StoryStudio Chicago. Her website is

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