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Alumna's First Novel Draws Raves

Rebecca Makkai ’99

Sharp-eyed readers of the July issue of  “O: The Oprah Magazine” may notice a familiar name in the magazine’s summer reading list: Rebecca Makkai. Don’t recognize her? By the end of the summer, you probably will, as this 1999 graduate of Washington and Lee University is poised to make a big name for herself with her first novel, “The Borrower” (Viking Press), out this month.
It’s the story of a children’s librarian named Lucy Hull and her favorite reader, Ian Drake, age 10, who run away together. Rebecca’s book has drawn praise from “Publisher’s Weekly” (“fast-paced, suspenseful, and thoroughly enjoyable”), “Good Housekeeping” (“delightfully quirky”), “Booklist” (“splendid first novel”) and The New York Times (“surprisingly moving”), among other publications.

Rebecca, a Montessori school teacher who lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two daughters, has contributed short stories to such literary journals as our own “Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review” (which she calls one of “a few that are near and dear to my heart”) and to such compilations as The Best American Short Stories.

“Her first story, at the age of three, was printed on the side of a cardboard box and told from the viewpoint of her stuffed Smurf doll,” as she writes in her witty website. The site also contains news of her summer book tour, a YouTube video of Rebecca giving book recommendations to young readers, and other material well worth a click.

And now, here she is, with her first novel available in print, audio and e-books. There’ll be no going back to the side of the cardboard box for Rebecca Makkai.