By: Patrick Dewitt
Narrator: Jim Meskimen
Publication Date: 07/04/2023
My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)
From bestselling and award-winning author Patrick deWitt comes the story of Bob Comet, a man who has lived his life through and for literature, unaware that his own experience is a poignant and affecting narrative in itself.
Bob Comet is a retired librarian passing his solitary days surrounded by books and small comforts in a mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon. One morning on his daily walk he encounters a confused elderly woman lost in a market and returns her to the senior center that is her home. Hoping to fill the void he’s known since retiring, he begins volunteering at the center. Here, as a community of strange peers gathers around Bob, and following a happenstance brush with a painful complication from his past, the events of his life and the details of his character are revealed.
Behind Bob Comet’s straight-man façade is the story of an unhappy child’s runaway adventure during the last days of the Second World War, of true love won and stolen away, of the purpose and pride found in the librarian’s vocation, and of the pleasures of a life lived to the side of the masses. Bob’s experiences are imbued with melancholy but also a bright, sustained comedy; he has a talent for locating bizarre and outsize players to welcome onto the stage of his life.
With his inimitable verve, skewed humor, and compassion for the outcast, Patrick deWitt has written a wide-ranging and ambitious document of the introvert’s condition. The Librarianist celebrates the extraordinary in the so-called ordinary life, and depicts beautifully the turbulence that sometimes exists beneath a surface of serenity.
Patrick deWitt's latest novel, THE LIBRARIANIST is a beautifully told story with a mix of literary and humor centered around a librarian, now retired when the past connects with the present leading him down memory lane.
An excellent story—superbly and fluidly told. I love stories like this as we come close to the end of our time and reflect on our lives (I am in this age group and can relate).
Bob Comet is seventy-one years old (a septuagenarian), has spent a lifetime with books, and is a retired librarian who lives alone in Portland, Oregon. He has been married once to Connie, and she left him for his best friend, Ethan, not long after they were married some forty-five years ago. They both betrayed him. Bob's mom died when he was 23, and she left him the childhood home. He never had any children.
He is a simple man, introverted, who enjoys his books, reading, solitude, walks, and does not have any close friends. He has few regrets.
Each day he walks. One day he goes into a 7-Eleven convenience store and sees a woman who looks lost. She is not talking but he sees the lanyard ID around her neck that shows she is a resident of Gambell-Reed Senior Center.
He walks with her and returns her to the center, and while there he meets Maria, who works in the office. He decides he wants to volunteer here and read to the residents.
He attains all the proper checks and paperwork, but the residents do not care about being read to. Many have problems the center is not equipped to handle and are understaffed. Maria suggests he leave the books and home and just come and visit. That seems to work! He enjoys making new friends; they take walks, play games, and go to the diner.
Then the same woman goes missing again. Bob finds her. Then he learns her name, past, and how she became the way she is. Bob is shocked. This leads him back to his past.
The author takes us back to when he met his wife, Connie, and his best friend, Ethan. This leads him to revisit the past, where we slowly hear Bob's life story.
Told in alternating timelines: 2005-2006 (present), 1942-1960 (past) until the day Bob decides to sell his house and move into the senior facility.
As a child and teen, Bob had been afraid of becoming an adult; this is a response to an idea his mother had unwittingly instilled in him, which was that life and work both were states of unhappiness and composure. She never understood Bob. We then capture him later when his life changes and his past resurfaces.
Bob was a brilliant boy, and I loved reading about him running away from home at age 11 via bus and train, meeting the two show-women with the dogs, working for them, and staying at the hotel. This was so much fun!
I hoped we would catch up with the ladies again before the end of the book since Bob did not say his goodbyes. This was a fun adventure! I also liked the young window sales guy who helped him. I liked Maria and the seniors, and I did not care for Connie—I felt she would not be suitable for Bob from the beginning. Especially when the two people he was closest to in his life, Ethan and Connie, went away together, gone from his life.
What a charming book! The author pens a heartbreaking yet heartwarming story with insight and compassion blended with wit and humor. Beautifully imagined and character-driven, I highly recommend it if you enjoy literary fiction—a moving portrait of an older man's struggle to hold on to his most precious memories.
A gem! An uplifting novel about looking deeper into the heart and soul to form bonds with the last people we'd expect—only to discover that they're the ones who need it most.
For fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde's So Long Chester Wheeler, Elizabeth Berg's Arthur Truluv- Earth's the Right Place for Love, and Fredrik Backman's And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.
Thanks to Ecco for a gifted ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
My Rating: 4.5 Stars rounded to 5 Stars
Pub Date: July 4, 2023
July 2023 Must-Read Books
“[A] wildly imaginative author.”
— Washington Post
“A bittersweet tale of a retired librarian . . . DeWitt imbues the people he meets with color and quirks, leaving a trail of sparks . . . This one gradually takes hold until it won’t let go.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Bob Comet, a retired librarian . . . brings to mind John Williams’ Stoner and Thoreau’s chestnut about ‘lives of quiet desperation,’ but it is telling that deWitt chooses to capture him at times when his life takes a turn. A quietly effective and moving character study.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Readers come to deWitt (French Exit, 2018) for his brand of slightly off-kilter storytelling blessed with exuberant characterizations, gleeful dialogue, and a proprietary blend of darkness and charm, all strung up in lights here. Gripping, random, and totally alive? Check, check, and check.” — Booklist
“A quiet, melancholy novel, one that is perfect for long summer evenings.”
— Town & Country
“The Librarianist is another charmer from an author who knows how to delight.”
About the Author
Photo Credit: Danny Palmerlee
Patrick deWitt is the author of the critically acclaimed Ablutions: Notes for a Novel, as well as the novels Undermajordomo Minor and The Sisters Brothers, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Born in British Columbia, Canada, he has also lived in California and Washington, and now resides in Portland, Oregon. READ MORE