Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern

I continue my quest to read novels set in libraries and bookstores with Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern. I've worked hard this week to dive into this novel, and I'm kind of "meh" on it, which is a big surprise to me; but then again, the novel wasn't what I expected, either. This seems to be my theme this summer-reading books that surprise me. 

The novel starts off with Kit talking about how she met her husband, Cal in college. This completely threw me for a loop, and I kept putting the book down, not really very interested in her relationship with Cal. What does this have to do with a library, I wondered? But I kept going. Mostly Kit's backstory explains why she is a librarian in little Riverton, NH--a place far from where she comes from. 

Aha! The library. Set in the small dying industrial town of Riverton, NH, the Carnegie library is one of the few places left in town that is actually open. There is a core group of faithful patrons, a pitiful budget, and a need for more of everything in the library. Kit is the reference librarian, and she's very good at her job. Sunny, a 14 year old, is caught stealing a dictionary from a bookstore. She's sentenced to work 40 hours a week at the library for the summer. Probably the best thing that's happened to her. Her parents, Willow and Steve, are the type of parents who provide no structure to their child-they "no school" her (not even homeschool, just let her figure stuff out on her own), are perpetually broke, and move around a lot. They live off the grid and do a great job avoiding authority. 

Rusty, who is a minor character for part of the book, takes a bigger role about half-way through. He's an ex-Wall Street executive, broke, homeless, and using the only computer the library has for public use every day, all day. He's a mystery until Sunny and Kit get to know him. 

The library in Riverton is a refuge for all who are wounded by life, frustrated by life, or just weary. It has a gently worn feeling; comfy and cozy, but still needing a lot of attention. Kit's love of books reminded me of myself in a weird way. It took her a few library jobs in science and academic libraries before she realized it wasn't the library life that she loved, but the books that she loved--libraries were the place where she could be surrounded by what she loved. 

Back to the story! I liked the characters: Kit, Sunny, and Rusty. I was not fond of the marriage back story, which took up a large chunk of the book, and spun out too slowly. When I finally got to the point of finding out just what had happened in Kit's marriage to Cal, I thought it was kind of ridiculous and over the top. Sunny didn't have much choice in her life; but growing into her teen years she's becoming more adamant about living a normal life: going to school, staying in one place, eating candy. In their attempts to show Sunny a life of freedom, they've actually closed her off to so much of life. 

Rusty was a good shot in the arm for the novel. He was necessary; just having the unfolding friendship between Sunny and Kit would have led to nowhere. Adding Rusty into the mix--with his honesty and cheerfulness, was one of the better aspects of the novel. 

I guess I thought there would be more of a big plot point in this novel about a library in a small town. But instead it was a quiet unfolding of three lives, their growing friendship, and healing from past wounds. My feeling still stands as a "meh". 

Rating:  3/6 for a novel about people starting over, or just beginning--depends on how you look at it. I'd love to know what happens to Sunny, Kit, and Rusty after the final page. Not a bad read--character driven and not a whole lot of action. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 


  1. Sounds like an interesting enough novel for me to want to try it out.

    1. I would definitely read it--I think I'm in the minority of people who didn't absolutely love it.

  2. Hi, I just wondered if you have a Goodreads account as I would love to follow you on there. Also wondered if you have read Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland as part of your current reading of books set in bookshops.