Set in a small Carnegie library in a failing New Hampshire town, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library brings a trio of loners together in the one public space left for them to find one another. Kit, a quiet librarian in her early forties, wants only to be left alone to forget her past. When she is charged with overseeing 15-year-old Sunny's summer community service (for stealing a dictionary), she is drawn to the girl's magnetic curiosity about the world. The two muse about the identity of the professionally dressed man who starts showing up all day, every day. Soon Rusty, too is drawn into an unlikely circle of friendship, along with The Four--the retirees who spend mornings over coffee and the paper at the library.
I can never resist a library or bookstore setting, but unfortunately this one felt very uneven. The first chapters started off with the fast-paced, racy story of Kit meeting her husband in college. This initial tone was surprising, and it's the only place it's seen in the book--which made it hard to connect the Kit of these chapters with the Kit of the rest of the book. The later chapters were quiet and almost entirely character-driven; interspersed with flashbacks from the main three--especially Kit--that showed their path to the "Robbers Library." I did enjoy watching the unlikely friendships unfold, and I loved some of the characters--especially The Four as a group. But even they were hard to track individually because two of them had the same name (why??). I eventually gave up trying to keep them straight, and this confusion prevented me from being as emotionally invested in later events as I otherwise might have been.
This post may include affiliate links. That means if you click and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Please see Disclosures for more information.
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.