"I think that when we have false assumptions about the world, we make the wrong decisions."
The Borrower was my second to last read of 2011. I casually opened it up one afternoon during the extended Christmas holiday, and shut it, a few hours later.
I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I purchased this beautiful book. To be perfectly clear: I picked it up because 1) the cover art was so incredibly awesome & 2) it was in pristine condition. I had to have it.
That being said, I knew from reading the jacket that it was about a librarian and her adventure after inadvertently kidnapping a patron. I also knew there would be mention of books (because, again, look at the cover).
The novel is narrated by Lucy, a second generation Russian-American, working as a librarian in a small Midwestern town. Lucy explains that she could have decided to do anything she wanted with her father's connections (considering he may or may not be a part of the Russian Mob in Chicago), but instead has decided to make her own way in life. We're introduced to Ian, Lucy's victim, while he routinely visits the library for designated weekly youth reading hour, and his overbearing Christian mother, who apparently doesn't weigh more than 100 pounds. We see Lucy's failing love life, (she suddenly starts "dating" a small scale composer whose work closely resembles the Mr. Clean jingle, and the awkward work/friend relationship she has with Rocky, another employee at the library). When Lucy discovers that Ian has been placed in a class for children who need guidance solidifying the "right" sexuality, Lucy becomes more and more concerned with his family life.
I really enjoyed this novel because of its humorous tone and Lucy's free flowing thought processes. Makkai managed to smartly tie in some great discussion material, which kept the novel together, despite the mostly ridiculous circumstances. The characters were solid and really made the novel for me.
Makkai's frequent references to perception were most fascinating. Lucy perceives Ian's life as that of a child that is neglected. Throughout the novel, the reader witnesses Lucy make assumptions about the world and those that are nearest and dearest to her. As much as she abhors this act in others, we find that she is unable to recognize this flaw in her own character. Lucy makes a rash decision in an attempt to provide a better lifestyle for someone, when she realizes that she doesn't understand what may or may not be a better lifestyle, or the truth of Ian's family life, for that matter. While Lucy ultimately means well, her ignorance and failure to see past her own wishful thinking results in poor decisions and inadequate generalizations. Overall, the novel provided social commentary on many current topics, which I believe enhanced the storyline, making it relatable.
While the ending (and many other occurrences) were outright unbelievable, I really enjoyed the characters and was perfectly happy accepting Makkai's conclusion.