Saturday, July 2, 2011

Travel Day--I Read Emma Donoghue and Rebecca Makkai's Novels Together and The Result is an Aha Moment.

I don't generally theme my reading on breaks.  There was a time when I would find books set in the area I was traveling to, and read a whole bunch of books set in New Jersey or Kentucky.  I'd sort of like to do that again.  One of the books on my pile was the new Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers, which I assumed was set in suburban Boston, but I didn't get to it yet.

Nowadays I find that I have so many must-read titles, between the upcoming events and in-store book club, that it's hard to group things together in interesting ways.  It's interesting when you can find links between on-the-surface dissimilar books, which is why I was fascinated by the interlocking themes of Emma Donoghue's Room and Rebecca Makkai's The Borrower, the two books I read on this week's trip to Massachusetts.

Both used a kidnapping of sorts as their jumping off point, but with a completely different set up.  In The Borrower, a young librarian finds herself running off with one of her library charges.  In Room, a young woman has been kidnapped, and gives birth to a child in confinement. 

Both stories are much about the bond between mother and son. Though Makkai's Lucy is hardly Ian's mom, she finds herself becoming Ian's surrogate parent.  And Donoghue's Ma is everything in the world to her Jack.  Nothing outside Room appears to exist to him; it's all TV. 

Even the boys have some similarities, precociously wise beyond their years in some ways, innocent and unworldly in others.  There's also some gender bendering.  Most folks think Ian might be gay and his parents have enrolled him in Pastor Bob's Program for preg-gay deprogramming.

Jack, on the other hand, is much younger and doesn't think about sex.  At five, he's still breastfeeding.  It's noted that his long hair makes him look like a girl and he's drawn to Dora the Explorer and her pink backpack. 

I didn't exactly connect these two novels when I put them on my reading list, but I found myself with a more enriched experience by reading them together.  Don't forget--we're discussing Room in our in-store book club this Monday, July 4, at 11 pm.  Rebecca Makkai is appearing for The Borrower on Wednesday, July 20, at 7 pm. More on our events page.

And I won't even begin to compare The Borrower to Dean Bakopoulos's My American Unnhappiness.  Her Lucy and his Zeke are a match made in holy matrimony.  Really, did you ever want to matchmake two protagonists? 

So what books have you found had more in common than you originally thought?

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