Book review: Here Lies the Librarian

>> Monday, February 22, 2010

Richard Peck's Here Lies the Librarian is a bit hard to explain, I think because it doesn't have a single particularly meaningful story arc. The year is 1914, the location a tiny town a couple of hours outside Indianapolis. The narrator and nominal main character of the story is Peewee, a 14-year-old who is more interested in working on cars with brother Jake than going to school. Peewee doesn't want much out of life, and therefore doesn't show much motivation to do much except follow Jake's lead.

Jake's and Peewee's lives are turned on their ears when a carload of young women from a nearby university's library program descend on the town and decide to reinvent the local library. Jake falls in love with one of them, then finds his heart really and truly belongs to another. Peewee, meanwhile, may have a future not in a grease pit, but among the stacks in a library.

Things happen in the story--dead bodies are unearthed by a tornado and end up in the trees, a rival car shop goes to war with Jake and Peewee for opening up a shop of their own, and Jake builds a car of his own which he enters into a big race at the end--but you're never quite sure if this is Peewee's story, Jake's story, or one of the librarians' stories. There is resolution, but it doesn't feel tight. It feels, in many ways, like real life--interesting things happen, things don't always turn out like you think they will, people get older, and the story ends. Perhaps all too common in life, but not in fiction, and it all left this reader feeling a bit like I'd missed something at the end.

Peck is a great writer though, with a great ear for dialogue, and a light, easy touch with humor, making Here Lies the Librarian a worthwhile read despite its loose plot.


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