Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern
eBook review copy; 384 pages
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.
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.