Saturday, August 20, 2011

Abandoned Book - The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Abandoned Book The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Normally, I'd never post a review for a book I haven't finished. However, this one is so far beyond belief that I cannot bring myself to listen any further. I received an audio copy of this from the Early Reviewers program, so I really tried and tried and tried to listen to the whole thing.  Normally I really enjoy audio books, and had been looking forward to this one.'s what the publisher wants us to get excited about:
Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, is unsure where her life is headed. That becomes more than a figure of speech when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home and Lucy finds herself in the surprise role of chauffeur.

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 anti-gay 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.

The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and dubious family history thrown in their path. But who is actually running away? And from what?
I disliked both main characters--I found them cardboard, stereotypical, and just plain unbelievable. If I were the President of Holyoke College, I'd be disavowing any knowledge of Lucy the librarian as a graduate. A college graduate? Really? My 4th grade granddaughter has more common sense and brains than this one! This girl (and she's a girl -- a stunted, stilted non-adult) is vapid and locked in a dreamworld.

The child Ian is a manipulative brat,  and his mother is certainly an obnoxious, moronic religious fanatic, but.............that is no reason to glorify his running away and Lucy's kidnapping him and letting a 10 year old run her life. Can you say arrested development?   Trying to sugar coat this exercise in juvenile delinquency in a cocoon of children's stories that are more suitable to pre-schoolers than a 10 year old and a mid-20 year old, only adds insult to the reader's already bruised intelligence.  I simply could not continue with this one.  I finished 4 of 8 discs, but it was just too painful to read more.

I suppose if you're into fantasy you might like this one, and maybe someday I'll be able to bring myself to finish it, but for now, the pragmatic math major adult in me just couldn't finish this one.


  1. Your title and opening lines of this post made me laugh because I came here from reading a review of this audio book on the blog, Devourer of Books. Jen's review pretty much convinced me that I don't want to read The Borrower because Lucy and Ian don't sound at all likable but rather intolerable and grating. Hence, I had to laugh when I saw your post.

    It's so disappointing when this happens with a book. And I thought the premise made it sound intriguing but I know I wouldn't finish this book if I began readng it...and it's rare that I put down a book before the end.

    Thank you for your honest opinion and review. So sorry you had this annoying experience. I hope your next read is more enjoyable :o)

  2. Gotta say, I think you just stopped too soon. The story is told several years in the future, and the narrator changes and matures massively in the second half... Pretty sure her naivete is intentional and kind of the point, and she grows beyond it. THe last two or three chapters are really, really great, and you're kinda missing out. It's a little like reading hte first half of a mystery and then saying "I hate how they never find the killer." Ya know?

  3. Of course you're entitled to your opinion, but when as august a writer as Pulitzer Prize winner, Richard Russo, writes "Rarely is a first novel as smart and engaging and learned and funny and moving as The Borrower", I'm inclined to listen to him. Perhaps you were just having a bad day, Tutu.

  4. I guess it sounds better on paper than it does in audio. Bummer! I have this one on the shelf and was hoping it would be a good one. Sorry this didn't work for you and you put in the time for such disappointment.

  5. This one was "just okay" as I recall - I had the audio. Maybe you will like it more though? Hope so.

  6. Hmmm... I think you've confirmed something for me, and helped settle an argument with my sister. I read the book, she listened to it on audio. I loved it, she liked it okay but thought the narrator was really immature. So yesterday I googled audio reviews on it and found this... Another person who listened to audio and found the narrator immature. So I borrowed my sister's audio, and NO KIDDING -- the actress sounds like she's about twelve years old. It colors everything the narrator says and does. It's supposed to be this rueful older voice looking back, and they should've cast someone in her thirties. There's a strong element that she's making fun of her former self, which I think is totally missed in the audio. (And as someone said above, that voice and perspective changes a lot by the end -- you've really missed the best parts of the book.) It raises a lot of interesting questions for me about how an audio narration -- something completely beyond the author's control -- could influence not only one person's reading (or listening), but then also make it out into the world as an online review. I wonder if it's really fair to criticize a book so publicly when you've listened to a strange audio and only experienced half the book... But freedom of speech, I guess. Personally, I LOVED the book, and recommend it so highly. It's smart and funny and wry, it's gotten great reviews elsewhere, and it's a tricky combination of highly readable but very literary. I hope your review of half the audio book doesn't turn readers off from the whole entire brilliant book itself.


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