“The Borrower” by Rebecca Makkai

This is the story of Lucy Hull (shortened from Hulkinov when her father migrated to America), a children’s librarian, and her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake.

Ian is a slightly asthmatic book worm who uses books as an escape.  His parents have forced him into attending a class every weekend run by “Pastor Bob” Lawson’s GHM classes.  GHM stands for Glad Heart Ministries where Pastor Bob is “dedicated to the rehabilitation of sexually confused brothers and sisters in Christ”.  Ian’s parents are worried that he may be gay, or at the least heading “down the wrong path”.  He is not allowed to have sleepovers, play with only girls or only boys.  His mother gives Lucy a list of content matter that Ian must avoid while choosing library books which includes Magic, Weaponry, Halloween and specific authors like Ronald Dahl and Lois Lowry.

While this story centers around Ian, and Lucy’s attempt to rescue him, it is also suggestive of banned books, and those who attempt to regulate subject matter for others.

One morning when Lucy arrives to open the library, she is surprised to find Ian bedded down on a pallet between the book shelves, building imaginary worlds with origami.  She attempts to drive him home and in following Ian’s directions ends up nowhere near his house.  He asks her to just drive a while, or maybe drive to his (non-existent) Grandmother’s house.

Before long they’ve crossed the Mississippi River and enter Illinois.  When she suggests they turn around and go back, he tells her that if she does, he will tell his parents and the police that she kidnapped him from the library the night before and wouldn’t let him go.  He says he will describe the inside of her car and say that she told him she always wanted a child, and now she had one.

While she ponders over whether she’s a kidnapper or he’s a librarianapper, they cover more ground, are gone more than one night, and in their cross country treck they travel through Chicago, Pittsburgh, Vermont, up to the Canadian border and are gone ten days before he’s finally ready to return home.

Meanwhile there is a search going on for the missing Ian Drake, news coverage, and missing posters.  How do they avoid detection for so long, and how does Ian get home, and most interesting, how does Lucy avoid arrest?

In addition to being a book about books and the love of reading, it also has a great plot and a most interesting character in Ian Drake.

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