The Librarianist: A Novel
A thoughtful book about a quiet man leading a quiet life, filled with wonderful language and small nuances. Bob Comet endured loneliness and heartbreak, but found solace in his books and ultimately found friendship and community.
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.
Praise for The Librarianist: A Novel
“[A] wildly imaginative author.” — Washington Post
“This engrossing fictional portrait of a retired librarian volunteering at an old folks home unspools its main character’s life—betrayals, loss, triumphs—with humor and tenderness.” — Vanity Fair
“Warmhearted. [The Librarianist] shares the attributes of its hero: likable, unshowy. . .reliably soothing.” — Wall Street Journal
“[A] poignant character study. . .DeWitt’s writing and endearing characters create a memorable world." — Los Angeles Times
“Patrick deWitt is a 21st-century Mark Twain. . . .The warmth that deWitt exhibits here gives this one an emotional staying power . . . Is it possible to change the contours of your personality late in life, with, as the woman with the prophetic space heater puts it, ‘the knowledge of a long dusk coming on’? The final scene in The Librarianist features an answer as modest as it is revolutionary, but deWitt has spent the preceding pages making the oxymoron of a modest revolution utterly believable. The answer is: maybe a little bit. Maybe enough.” — Laura Miller, Slate
"I think each Patrick deWitt novel is going to be the one that helps everyone fall in love with his writing, but The Librarianist could finally do it. . . . DeWitt's dialogue moves with the speed and precision of great conversation . . . Bright and entertaining from beginning to end." — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A quiet, melancholy novel, one that is perfect for long summer evenings.” — Town & Country
"[An] affectionate portrait of an introverted loner who makes some surprising connections late in life. . .[DeWitt’s] bemused sense of compassion for his characters recalls Anne Tyler, with whom he shares a soft spot for misfits, along with a firm conviction that even supposedly ordinary people lead extraordinary lives." — Christian Science Monitor
“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
“The Librarianist is another charmer from an author who knows how to delight.” — BookPage
“DeWitt’s great gift lies in his ability to depict the Everyman in extremis – heroism hidden in plain sight.” — Telegraph (UK)
“DeWitt takes us on a waltzer of a ride, twisting through Bob’s life.” — Financial Times (UK)
“The Booker Prize–shortlisted deWitt creates an endearing character in Bob Comet, who, at the age of 72, and after a lifetime of low expectations, finds life’s answers and the friends he deeply needs. This novel begs to be read.” — Booklist
“A nuanced account of heartbreak and emotional confusion. . . .I would heartily recommend The Librarianist. It is full of subtle reflections on contemporary life and. . .deceptively biting humor.” — The Independent (UK)
“I found the whole reading experience utterly charming…The dialogue is fresh and characters come alive immediately on the page and there’s simply an energy to deWitt’s books that make them pleasurable to spend time with, and that’s all on display in The Librarianist." — Chicago Tribune
"The protagonist of Patrick DeWitt’s latest novel both upholds and belies the image of the quiet librarian. When Bob Comet, retired librarian, begins volunteering at a local senior center to fill the void he’s felt since retirement, we start to learn more about his colorful, complex past. As he gathers a coterie of interesting new acquaintances around him, these mingle and mix with characters from his past to create an engaging read about a seeming introvert’s far-from-ordinary life." — Electric Literature
“Heartwarming . . . . Weaving accounts of wartime bravery, lost romance, and the unconventional joys of the everyday, deWitt celebrates the extraordinary moments nestled within the ordinary with wit and empathy.” — Monocle