The Night Bookmobile

By AUDREY NIFFENEGGER

This first graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, is a sugary, visual valentine to the joys of reading.

Her narrator, Alexandra, lives in Chicago with a somewhat surly boyfriend. She heads out for a walk in the wee hours of the morning after an argument and comes upon an “enormous battered Winnebago” blaring out Bob Marley music. The inside is filled with books. It’s a bookmobile, modeled after those used by the Chicago Public Library. And it’s only open from dusk to dawn.

Given Niffenegger’s inclination toward the supernatural, it’s no surprise that there’s something magical about the place. Alexandra recognizes every book on the shelves—the Judy Blumes, Agatha Christies, Jane Austens, and Paul Austers. She even finds her diary on the shelves. Yes, it’s Alexandra’s personal collection, everything she’s read in her lifetime, including cereal boxes. At dawn Mr. Openshaw, the librarian, gently insists she leave.

Using subtle shifts in Alexandra’s clothes and facial features, Niffenegger illustrates the passing of the years as her heroine withdraws into reading and sheds her boyfriend (he can’t compete with the siren song of her elusive dream lover). It’s nine years before Alexandra finds the night bookmobile again, and then only long enough to decide she wants to become a librarian. More years pass, and after yet another visit, Alexandra ponders all she has given up for reading and makes a fateful decision.

The Night Bookmobile captures a solitary booklover’s enduring passion eloquently: “Each spine was an encapsulated memory, each book represented hours, days of pleasure of immersion in words.”