The Borrower (Penguin, $15), by Rebecca Makkai, is a charming tale of the cockamamie road trip of a librarian and her favorite ten-year-old patron. Librarian Lucy Hull is both kidnapper and kidnapped when Ian, precocious and stifled by his family, blackmails Lucy into driving him across the country. This humorous novel has children’s story elements and a cast of characters that includes Russian mobsters, ferrets, and the ghosts of the Green Mountain Boys. Makkai’s debut novel is smartly written and wise as Lucy considers the many moral and legal conundrums she has gotten herself into. In this, the season of road trips, The Borrower is a novel not to be missed by anyone who has ever wished to run away with books—or maybe with their favorite librarian or bookseller.
It takes a writer of Howard Bryant’s ability to produce The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron (Anchor, $16.95). Bryant explains the forces that shaped Aaron’s life, from his childhood and youth in the segregated South, to his national recognition in baseball, to his political maturation after he retired from the game. Bryant describes Aaron both as a human being and as the different symbols he came to represent for different Americans. Perhaps the sport’s greatest player, Aaron comes across in this biography as a man with many, heretofore unexplored, dimensions.
In Aimee Bender’s second novel, Rose Edelstein discovers, on her ninth birthday, that she can taste emotions in what she eats. She must then navigate a strange world where feelings she does not yet understand shape how she views her family, friends, and countless strangers. The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake (Anchor, $15) is a lovely and haunting story; Bender’s characters are endearingly human in the face of abnormal circumstances.