From journalist and author Sue Halpern comes a wry, observant look at contemporary life and its refugees. Halpern’s novel is an unforgettable tale of family...the kind you come from and the kind you create.
People are drawn to libraries for all kinds of reasons. Most come for the books themselves, of course; some come to borrow companionship. For head librarian Kit, the public library in Riverton, New Hampshire, offers what she craves most: peace. Here, no one expects Kit to talk about the calamitous events that catapulted her out of what she thought was a settled, suburban life. She can simply submerge herself in her beloved books and try to forget her problems.
But that changes when fifteen-year-old, home-schooled Sunny gets arrested for shoplifting a dictionary. The judge throws the book at Sunny—literally—assigning her to do community service at the library for the summer. Bright, curious, and eager to connect with someone other than her off-the-grid hippie parents, Sunny coaxes Kit out of her self-imposed isolation. They’re joined by Rusty, a Wall Street high-flyer suddenly crashed to earth.
In this little library that has become the heart of this small town, Kit, Sunny, and Rusty are drawn to each other, and to a cast of other offbeat regulars. As they come to terms with how their lives have unraveled, they also discover how they might knit them together again and finally reclaim their stories.
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Sue Halpern is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, New York Review of Books, Rolling Stone, and Condé Nast Traveler. She lives in Vermont with her husband, the writer and environmental activist Bill McKibben, and is a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I’m of two minds about this title: it started slowly and felt rather disjointed as two of the primary characters are introduced and some of their stories are revealed. It is much later in the book when the third character is brought in, and the points of view from memory and current thoughts flip between the three. This also wasn’t a ‘read in one siting’ title for me: it required time between sections and chapters to absorb the progress and find some of the wonderful bits that created simple connections in lives – the parallel between Sunny’s ‘troika’ family and the triad that she, Kit and Rusty became. The Robbers library – a Carnegie seed-funded library (one of 9 and one academic ) in New Hampshire (all still functioning in their original buildings from the early 1900’s with the exception of the academic library) and it’s conection to Sunny – in serving community service after a failed theft of a dictionary because “all the books that are or ever will be are in it”, and the transition from Rober’s (the surname of the French-Canadian mill owner who’s investment helped to fund and fill the library building after the Carnegie grant. Oh- there are more – and each comes to play in unique ways that are both quite clever and feel natural. But this isn’t a story of the library or the books within it, although the book has many literary and poetic references: it is a story of the community built around the reading tables and the people who come to socialize, research, work and rely on the constancy and solidity of a building and its purpose. The three characters are Kit, the reference librarian, new to town, rather removed and isolated from jovial or even personal interactions with patrons. Sunny, a teenager raised in an unconventional way, ‘noschooled’ and serving a 12 week sentence by the court to work at the library as punishment for her attempts to steal a dictionary. Lastly there is Rusty, arriving in the little town of Riverton on a quest for ‘found money’ after he lost near everything in the financial collapse. The story starts and ends with Kit at the center, as her story and love of poetry and literature become the pivot point of the story. You have to be willing to go slowly through the story –memories of therapy and the lessons she took, mocked, questioned and ultimately relied on as she moves forward through her days all lead to her finally sharing her whole story – in bits and pieces until it feels as if the pressures are too much: both Rusty and Sunny shared worries, concerns and their stories – and there is a sense of quid pro quo from her – as if she’s sharing despite herself at first: surprising both her and those around her. Yet, the stories shared in different voices all come together like pieces of a puzzle: each of these characters comes together filling in edges, bits of the center, until they are whole. With secondary characters from both patrons and employees in the library, a bit of the run-down town and moments of community, and the loss of a library regular whose presence will be long-lasting in memory and act – the story does take some unexpected turns and twists. Halpern’s writing style is intriguing here: from the three lives who intersect and provide support (grudgingly at first) to one another – and the little moments that bring the pieces together as these lives meet, correlate and bond are unlike any story I’ve previously read. From learning about the Carnegie libraries to spotting moments of descr
Sunny is sentenced to 40 hours per week service at the library in Riverton for stealing. She shadows Kit, the librarian. Kit has secrets she tries to hid. Sunny learns secrets she, maybe, did not want to know. Rusty, a daily library patron, lets his secrets be known. They collide and form a bond none expected. I loved this book. I liked how it was set up by Kit's secrets and by the weeks Sunny worked at the library. I also liked the story told from the different points of view. The secondary characters were quirky and fun. They were honest in their actions and words. I would like to know what the future holds for all of them.
Not many would agree that a dictionary, stolen from a book store, could set in motion a domino effect that would shake up things at the Riverton Public Library. As the reference librarian, Kit enjoys the silence of the little used library. The Four Quartet can occasionally get a little loud, but she actually enjoys the retired gents and only shushes them periodically. The well dressed, nice looking man who sits at the public computers doesn’t even bother her. At the morning staff meeting Kit learns she will be responsible for the volunteer, Sunny, who has been assigned community service for her act of theft. How is Kit going to keep a teen busy for 40 hours a week all summer? Halpern’s story of a summer in a small depressed northeastern town is captivating. I always think of a novel as the weaving of a tapestry that creates a complete picture by the final chapter. In Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, the tapestry is slowly taken apart to reveal a wonderful story of a few humans, bruised and damaged as they may be. Pick this one up and be prepared to sit and enjoy it to the very last page. I did it in one day. Not that I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t want to. I wish to thank the generosity of the publisher and Edelweiss for the Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest review.
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern is a very highly recommended novel about second chances and family. It surprised me how much I loved this gracefully written contemporary, charming novel with its distinctive characters. Kit is the reference librarian at the Carnegie Library (called the "Robbers" Library based on the name of a local tycoon, Robers, who promoted it) in Riverton, NH. Kit has moved here four years ago to escape her past and wants nothing more than a peaceful, quiet, secluded life that revolves around working at the library. She often thinks of her therapist, Dr. Bondi, and what he has said to her in the past and would currently say about situations. Sunny (Solstice) is an fifteen-year-old who is arrested for shoplifting a dictionary. She is sentenced to community service at the library for the summer. Sunny is un-schooled and the only child of her living-off-the-grid hippy parents. Her community service at the library opens up a new world to her and she eagerly attaches herself to Kit. Rusty is a former Wall Street investor who lost his job. He has come to Riverton looking for an old bank account that belonged to his mom and should be worth some money now. He is at the library everyday using the computer to do research. Rusty eventually joins the group of four retired men who come to the library every morning to read the papers and drink coffee. He also begins to connect with Kit and Sunny. These three unique individuals begin to form an uneasy friendship and connection as their stories are slowly told through alternating chapters. Kit's story is more complicated than the others and the larger backstory that begs to be told after the opening chapter. Sunny's story is based more on her parent's decisions and how they have impacted her life. Rusty is, obliviously, trying to find a new direction to his life after he lost his previous job. Halpern has made all these characters appealing and compelling. I liked the narrative switching between the character's stories and found them equally compelling. I wanted to know what happened to them and see healing for them in the future. I loved the empathy given to the life of all these characters and the insight into their situations. I also loved the grace they gave each other, as they tried to understand and help each other. These are beautifully captured characters. (I saved quotes that I won't share due to spoilers, but there was so much insight and wisdom in them.) The plot starts out at an even pace covering the background of the characters (but not Kit's entire story until later) before picking up the drama. The biggest complement I can give is that I was looking forward to sitting down and reading it and felt happy and satisfied when the novel concluded. While there was drama and conflicts, in the end this novel that left me feeling happy that recovery from traumatic events can happen and family can be chosen. And I loved the sheer love of reading and books that permeates the novel, along with the line of poetry from a notable poet that opens each chapter. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.