The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

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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?

About Rebecca Makkai

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REBECCA MAKKAI lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. This is her first novel.
Published June 9, 2011 by Penguin Books. 337 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Borrower

Kirkus Reviews

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Lucy Hull feels sorry for Ian Drake, the most devoted attendee of her read-aloud on Friday afternoons.

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Publishers Weekly

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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 hi...

Apr 04 2011 | Read Full Review of The Borrower

Star Tribune

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Makkai shines at short stories, and this novel feels like a long short story -- snappy and casual, but not fully developed or thought out.

Jun 18 2011 | Read Full Review of The Borrower

The Bookbag

Ian's clever though (possibly helped by all that reading he does) so enlists the help of a friendly member of the library staff in his quest to read 'more interesting' books.

Jul 03 2012 | Read Full Review of The Borrower


It’s the motherfucking Music Man.” Makkai gets a little exuberant in her riffing, to the point that some of the chapters are psuedo-mockups of chapters from “Choose Your Own Adventure” books or the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” and to me, it’s just barely toeing the line into “a bit much,” but...

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Washington Independent Review of Books

When Lucy tells Ian that they must call someone to let them know he’s safe, he grins and replies, “if you call them, I’ll say you kidnapped me from the library last night, and you wouldn’t let me go.” But when Lucy asks Ian whether he plays any sports, he tells her that at recess he plays somethi...

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Rebecca Makkai's The Borrower is one of those rare debut novels that makes an impact through its message as well as its literary achievement.

Aug 11 2011 | Read Full Review of The Borrower

We Love This Book

Lucy's best client is ten-year-old Ian Drake, an avid bibliophile with evangelical parents who want Ian only to read volumes with "the breath of God on them".

Jul 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Borrower

St. Louis Today

My family gave me an iPod a couple of years ago, and I compiled a playlist that belongs in a time capsule.

Jul 03 2011 | Read Full Review of The Borrower

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

If I lost my library job, I could go pro.” Debut novelist and elementary schoolteacher Rebecca Makkai combines a wily, madcap road trip with socially poignant conundrums and multiple themes in this coming-of-age story about a twenty-six-year-old children’s librarian, Lucy Hull, and a ten-year...

Jul 09 2011 | Read Full Review of The Borrower

Chicago Tribune

Mom is also worried about Ian's sexuality (every adult who meets him assumes he's gay) and has enrolled him in a class taught by Pastor Bob Lawson for children "whose parents suspected they were 'headed down the wrong path.'" Lucy is appalled, the more so as she observes Ian becoming sneaky and ...

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