Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Case Study No. 2071: Val Reed (Wannabe Librarian)

Mobile Library Book Review
Alex Heminsley reviews Mobile Library by author of "Bed" David Whitehouse. Imaginative whilst quite grown up.
Tags: Review (Media Genre) Book Library (Industry) Bookmobile Bed Book David Whitehouse Mobile Library Hemmo Alex Heminsley 60secbooks 60secreviews Book Review
Added: 6 months ago
From: 60sec Books
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[scene opens with a closeup of the book's cover]
ALEX: [in voiceo over] "Mobile Library" is the second novel from David Whitehouse, who wrote the acclaimed and award-winning ... but not kind of a huge sensation--
[cut to a young woman ("Alex Heminsley, @hemmo") speaking directly to the camera]
ALEX: "Bed." This one is kind of "Little Miss Sunshine" meets Roald Dahl. It really really is a book about imagination and childhood and reading, while managing to also be quite a grown-up literary read.
[cut to another shot of the book's cover]
ALEX: [in voice over] It's about a young boy and his friend, who end up on a road trip in a mobile library.
[cut back to Alex speaking directly to the camera]
ALEX: Mobile libraries themselves are sort of slightly kind of an antiquated idea, so there's a kind of nostalgic vibe to the novel anyway. But the escape that's provided by books and reading here, and the connections that a shy boy can make through these relationships are really what hold the book together.
[cut to another shot of the book's cover]
ALEX: [in voice over] It's an absolutely lovely, albeit quite quiet read ...
[cut back to Alex speaking directly to the camera]
ALEX: And the sort of thing you'd really love to give to a friend, as well.

Mobile Library
A classic road trip with a heart.
3/5 stars


From amazon.com:

Mobile Library: A Novel
by David Whitehouse (Author)

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Scribner (January 20, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1476749434

"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 Reed, 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).


From kirkusreviews.com:

A precocious 12-year-old boy joins a cast of quirky characters in this surprising adventure novel.

Whitehouse (Bed, 2012) fills this story with tropes from teen literature. Parents are conspicuously absent; books offer unique comfort; and adults are, by and large, cruel and all-powerful. Bobby Nusku lives with his abusive father and is frequently bullied at school. Since his mother left, Bobby's primary pastime has been tending the meticulous records he keeps while he awaits her return. He has jars of her hair, bottles of her perfume and all of her jewelry stashed away in hiding spots in his room. Over summer vacation, Bobby forms an unlikely friendship with his neighbor Val Reed and her daughter, Rosa. Val, who works at a mobile library, invites Bobby to visit the truck full of books. There, Bobby falls in love with reading. He longs for the promised escape of a happy ending: "He wanted to be in a book, to have an adventure." When vacation ends, Bobby snaps under the pressure of his harsh, lonely life. After a moment of aggression, he finds himself back at Val's house. Rather than confront his wrongdoing, Val decides to give Bobby the adventure he craves, and the three run away in the mobile library. They soon meet Joe, a fellow escapee whom they find in the woods and invite along. The foursome grows predictably close as they drive across the U.K., avoid arrest and discover that "family is where it's found." The whimsical tone and fanciful flourishes - chapter names include "The Ogre" and "The Non-fire Breathing Dragon" - cross into the cartoony in scenes depicting violence and child abuse. The adults in the novel ask shockingly few questions before making irresponsible decisions that, while convenient for the plot, are highly implausible. Bobby's desired happy ending clashes sharply with every foreseeable conclusion. As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly bewildering to readers accustomed to novels that are grounded in reality.

An offbeat narrative that struggles to gain traction with adult readers.


From google.com:

The mobile library was the biggest vehicle Bobby had ever seen. He counted sixteen wheels, a couple of spares stowed above the axles for luck. The cab at the front bore a smile in its grille of silver teeth, and twin horns of exhaust piping curved up into the sky.

"Are you a librarian?" Bobby asked.

"Oh," Val said. "I wish."

They walked to the rear of the truck, where Val twisted the key in the hole and let Rosa press the button. With a loud clunk, the giant steel door burst open and transformed into a staircase that wound down to their feet.

Inside the library, books were stacked on shelves floor to ceiling on three sides. Bobby had never seen so many, or even imagined that they existed in this number. The column of space running through the center of the truck was ribbed with sets of smaller bookcases forming a simple maze leading to the back. The carpet was woven from hostile burgundy fibers, except for an area at the rear where it was thick and woolen. To Bobby it felt equal parts forbidden and mysterious. Already, he didn't want to leave.

Rosa sat down and emptied out the contents of her bag. She took a pen, put the lid in her mouth and forced the curled-up end of her tongue inside it. Then she wrote "Rosa Reed, Val Reed, Bobby Nusku" over and over in her notebook.

Val found cleaning fluids in the cupboard behind the counter, fluorescent and upright like fireworks waiting to be lit. While a bucket filled with hot water, she polished the tops and edges of the two smaller blocks of shelving, Science Fiction and Biography. Once the water had cooled she added a dash of bleach, and Bobby watched as she mopped the stairs. Wrung out, the mop was a perfect length for knocking down the cobwebs that had collected in the high corners around History. Then she cleaned the lavatory.

"Sometimes," she said to nobody in particular, "I worry that life is just the journey between toilets."

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