Book: The Borrower
Author: Rebecca Makkai
Published: 2011 (Viking)
I like this book for very selfish reasons--namely, I completely understand the main character's mid-twenties aimlessness and love/hate relationship with her first-out-of-college job. I am living that right now. Also, I would totally go over to her apartment to listen to the plays and rehearsals in the theater below with her while reading or drinking or both. It sounds like a good plan to make us both less lonely.
But you know what's not such a good plan? Letting a bright, spastic kid from a strict, possibly abusive family trick her into quasi-kidnapping him for a road trip after she finds him hiding in the library where she runs the children's room.
Her impulse is all good intentions. She wants to help him get away from a crushing home life so he can figure out who he is, and maybe in this stealthy heroic gesture she'll find out enough about herself so she can finally start actually living. She already has to find creative ways to smuggle him Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. She's got Russian revolutionary blood and mob ties from her dad. Full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, etc, etc.
But half of her starts off really freaked out and only gets worse as the kid blackmails her into taking him across state lines on a quest to see his grandma. By the time they find the grandma in a Revolutionary War-era Vermont grave, the fuck-yeah-rescue and oh-fuck-kidnapping parts of her brain are so incredibly heightened that...
...she avoids all consequences of said kidnapping by letting one of her dad's guys take the kid home on a Greyhound bus and never going back to her hometown again. She never sees the poor kid again. He probably had to go through the punishment version of the anti-gay camp his parents had him in and from which he was running away. She doesn't know. She thinks about him a lot and wants such a better future for him so hard, but it's even harder to believe her when she ran away to bury herself in an academic library instead of going back and maybe, I don't know, fighting for the little guy.
I'm not judging her on real-life heroics, because fuck knows what she could've been charged with before she would've had a chance to explain herself and what would've stuck anyway, but it would've been so much more affecting and still totally logical for her to go back and face up what she (they) did.