Pick of the Week: Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

davidwhitehouseBobby Nesku is a skinny boy who feels unloved and alone. His mother is no longer home after a terrible car accident. Bobby waits for her to come back by cataloging any scraps he can find of her. He spends the rest of the time trying to avoid his abusive, neglectful father and the bullies at school who like to beat him up.

Another lonely kid named Sunny Clay befriends Bobby and promises to protect him at all costs. “He (Sunny) recognized loneliness when he saw it. Noisy crowds that swirl around the silence in the center where you sit. An irrepressible ache made by the melody of other peoples’ laughter. The breadth of the canyon between you and someone you can reach out to touch.’’

Bobby also is befriended by a single mom named Val and her beautiful, captivating young daughter, Rosa, who also is picked on because she is different. Val cleans the town’s mobile library and shows Bobby the wonder of all its books. Their friendship grows, and Val realizes she wishes Bobby were her son. But their innocent relationship draws the attention of village gossips who imagine the worst.mobilelibrary

When Val finds out that Bobby was severely beaten by his drunken father, she decides to take the children on a road trip. She doesn’t have a car, but she does have the mobile library, which she has been told is going to be shut down due to budget cuts. She thinks, “What better motive than granting this boy a reprieve from a rotten start in life, even if it did turn out to be fleeting.’’ Along the way they are befriended by a stranger named Joe, who is hiding from his own dark past.

David Whitehouse’s descriptive writing in Mobile Library is captivating. I kept wanting to write down his beautiful sentences, such as, “Houses are bodies, their memories mapped by the scars left behind.’’ His characters are endearing and unforgettable. The plot blends both tragedy and humor in just the right amounts.

Like many of my colleagues, I am drawn to novels that take place in bookstores, libraries, and now bookmobiles. I now can imagine what fun it would be taking a road trip with a mobile library.

Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org

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