PLOT: 4/5

“We’re human beings, Chloe. Real live goddamned human beings. Not just some side characters who disappear the second they decide to turn the page.”

Lucy Gilmore, The Library of Borrowed Hearts

As readers, we are often drawn towards books that are centered around other books and even libraries. There is just something about the feeling of books and libraries that makes reading fiction about them feel like home. Thus, it was only natural that when I first saw a review of The Library of Borrowed Hearts, I was instantly drawn by its title and the vibrant colors of the cover.

The story

Chloe Sampson works at the local library in a small town. Her dream of acquiring a degree in library science couldn’t be completed as she had to leave college midway to take care of her three very exuberant younger siblings after their mother couldn’t take it anymore and walked out one day. Chloe is barely making ends meet but tries her best to provide for her siblings. One day, she comes across a rare edition of a banned book and decides to take it home with her.

An encounter with her aloof, cranky neighbour, during which she mentions the book, causes him to offer her an insane amount for it. Upon opening the book, Chloe discovers notes written in the margins by two lovers from back in the day, and one of them appears to be her neighbour, the reclusive Jasper Holmes.

On further reading and investigating she discovers that this isn’t the only book whose margins had been filled and there is a possibility of there being more. Thus begins the literary scavenger hunt and Chloe is determined to see what happened to make Jasper this cranky old Hermit who has now opened his heart to Chloe and her siblings. There is more to the story than what meets the eye, and Chloe too in turn learns to accept her shortcomings and take the desired help. In the end, she comes to understand that life can happen in the unlikeliest of places and that she should always be open to it.

My thoughts

The Library of Borrowed Hearts is a heartwarming story full of love and romance at its core. Told in alternating timelines—1960 and the present—and featuring narration from various characters, the story progresses well and is filled with joy and intrigue.

Because of the way it is narrated, I believe that listening to the audiobook would make it even more fascinating, though I found the paperback to be quite good as well. The dual timelines and multiple perspectives add depth and richness to the narrative. This makes the book a compelling read for anyone who loves stories about books, libraries, and the connections they foster.

Talking about the pacing, it’s not fast-paced by any means; the story takes its time to develop. It starts with the mystery surrounding the notes in the margins and gradually reveals what exactly happened. This is the primary plot of the story, but there are many subplots as well.

For instance, Chloe’s relationship with her estranged mother and siblings is really amazing, and then there is her budding romance with Zach, which isn’t developed as much as I would have liked and enjoyed. These subplots add depth to the main narrative, thereby providing a fuller picture of Chloe’s life and the challenges she faces, making the story more engaging and multifaceted.

The bond between the siblings is really good, with each of them being different from the others. Their uniqueness, along with their love for each other, makes the book even more special to read. My favourite amongst all the siblings is Noodles, a reticent young boy who knows more than he lets on. He plays an integral part in moving the story forward.

Jasper, with all his crankiness and quirky attitude, is actually a big softie. His subtle change in attitude, especially while dealing with the siblings, is endearing and heartwarming. There are a lot of similarities between Chloe and Jasper; both shouldered responsibilities at an early age without any complaints, setting aside their own ambitions. This parallel between their lives further adds depth to their character.

As it is set in a library with books at its center, one is bound to find bookish references. There were many and needless to state, these references and quotes from classic books were fun to read, making it very different from my usual reads. If you are looking for a not-so-typical romance read, that blends historical and contemporary elements with books at its core, you have to check out The Library of Borrowed Hearts.

Can’t wait to read it? You can buy your copy of The Library of Borrowed Hearts using the link below.