"An archivist of his mother," Bobby Nusku spends his nights meticulously cataloging her hair, clothing, and other traces of the life she left behind. Read more...
"An archivist of his mother," Bobby Nusku spends his nights meticulously cataloging her hair, clothing, and other traces of the life she left behind. By day, Bobby and his best friend Sunny hatch a plan to transform Sunny, limb-by-limb, into a cyborg who could keep Bobby safe from schoolyard torment and from Bobby's abusive father and his bleach-blonde girlfriend. When Sunny is injured in a freak accident, Bobby is forced to face the world alone.
Out in the neighborhood, Bobby encounters Rosa, a peculiar girl whose disability invites the scorn of bullies. When Bobby takes Rosa home, he meets her mother, Val, a lonely divorcee, whose job is cleaning a mobile library. Bobby and Val come to fill the emotional void in each other's lives, but their bond also draws unwanted attention. After Val loses her job and Bobby is beaten by his father, they abscond in the sixteen-wheel bookmobile. On the road they are joined by Joe, a mysterious but kindhearted ex-soldier. This "puzzle of people" will travel across England, a picaresque adventure that comes to rival those in the classic books that fill their library-on-wheels.
At once tender, provocative and darkly funny, Mobile Library is a fable about the intrinsic human desire to be loved and understood--and about one boy's realization that the kinds of adventures found in books can happen in real life. It is the ingenious second novel by a writer whose prose has been hailed as "outlandishly clever" (The New York Times) and "deceptively effortless" (The Boston Globe).
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-11-17
- Reviewer: Staff
After a thrashing by his abusive father and a schoolyard fight, young Bobby Nusku takes refuge with a neighborhood cleaning lady, Val, and her disabled daughter, Rosa, all the while pining for his mysteriously absent mother. Piling into a recently deactivated mobile library vehicle that Val maintains on weekends, Val and her charges run away. On their journey, they meet Joe, a gangly ex-soldier drifter, and decide to pose as a family as they evade the authorities in England and head towards a safe haven in Scotland. The group bonds while consuming classic literature, stealing supplies, and painting the vehicle to appear less conspicuous, yet Bobby cannot forget his past. He pores over artifacts of his mother that he's meticulously kept in jars and folders, waiting for the day of her return. Whitehouse's narrative provides moments of charm and whimsy, particularly as characters take on storybook personas (the Caveman, the Zookeeper, the Hunter), but the abrupt perspective shifts, often multiple times per chapter, are occasionally clumsy, and the narrative's voyage is intermittently striking. When stacked against the literary gems Bobby and his crew read throughout, from The Little Prince to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Whitehouse's novel feels ordinary. (Jan.)