I recently finished reading The Book Borrower by Alice Mattison. Admittedly it took me about fifty pages in to really develop an interest. The author's style and cadence takes some time to get used to. It is written, I am sure intentionally, as if she is uneducated yet trying to convince others that she is.
The premise centers around the friendship of Deborah Laidlaw and Toby Ruben. It is a friendship that lasts decades, survives multiple falling outs, petty jealousies, and baseless insecurities. Both women are needy but Toby has a particularly strong need to be accepted by Deborah. While both women are married with children, it at times seems as if Toby is in love with Deborah. A psychologist would have a field day dissecting the dynamics of their relationship.
During their first meeting Deborah loans Toby one of her husband's books, entitled Trolly Girl, which is about a female activist/anarchist who played a prominant role in the trolly strikes and is accused of causing a trolly accident that kills someone close to her. This activist later becomes an artist and her life intersects many years later with Toby Ruben. It is this story within a story, however, that was most fascinating. It left me wishing that the story within a story was a book in and of itself.
This woman, Berry Cooper, and Toby become friends. More accurately Toby ends up caring for Berry in her old age. It is as if Toby is trying to redeem herself for her failings and shortcomings in her friendship with Deborah.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It dealt with issues of friendship, forgiveness, redemption, and second chances. I would like to think we are all capable of displaying such unwavering loyalty to those we care about. It surely does not exist only in fiction.
If anyone else has read this I would love to hear what you thought.