The Book Borrower By: Alice Mattison
On the first page of The Book Borrower, Toby Ruben and Deborah Laidlaw meet in 1975 in a city playground, where they are looking after their babies, and Deborah lends Toby a book, Trolley Girl, that will appear, disappear, and return throughout the years in which these women are friends. The book is a memoir about a long-ago trolley strike and three Jewish sisters, one a fiery revolutionary.
Toby and Deborah raise their toddlers in the seventies while arguing over Patty Hearst and the meaning of life. They find work teaching inner-city daycare workers, a job that leads to conflict between them. Meanwhile, Toby reads the opening chapters of Trolley Girl with interest but puts the book aside when its story turns tragic.
Ten years later we find Toby and Deborah as adjunct English instructors at a local college.
Another decade passes. Toby and Deborah spend a November afternoon hiking down a trail in the park where they met long ago and arguing, as usual, about teaching, about their college-age children, about recent strife in Rwanda. But this time the argument cannot be resolved. It is ultimately the borrowed Trolley Girl, which reemerges from Toby's dusty bookshelf, that brings solace and consolation to Toby.
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