Review: The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey NiffeneggerFirst serialised in the Guardian, The Night Bookmobile tells the story of a young woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing mobile library that happens to stock every book she has ever read.

Seeing her history and her most intimate self in this library, she embarks on a search for the bookmobile. Over time, her search turns into an obsession as she longs to be reunited with her own collection and her memories.

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Spoiler Alert: While The Night Bookmobile isn’t necessarily part of a series, this review is not spoiler free. To comment on the story I have found I cannot avoid spoilers. For those who are wondering, and would like to avoid spoilers, I loved The Night Bookmobile and would recommend it to those who love books, libraries, and graphic novels.

Review

I’m a woman of science. While I have researched different religions and belief systems, I find myself firmly believing our bodies will decompose once we die and our ‘souls’ are the by-product of our body’s lively machinations; a construct wherein a soul will die out once our bodies give up the ghost, so to speak.

Naturally this belief leads to not believing an afterlife exists. The Night Bookmobile has made me want to believe in an afterlife. At the moment I am not excited about the prospect of death, but if an afterlife existed and it was the chance to become a librarian in The Library for the Night Bookmobile then I would be too excited for words. I’d have excitement about life and an excitement for death too, which would be sooner rather than later because I would probably hyperventilate over the prospect.

Excitement and wished for reality aside; The Night Bookmobile perplexed me. While I love the idea of a bookmobile collecting your written and read life, I think Lexi spends a detrimental amount of time focused on The Night Bookmobile. So much so her partner leaves her and she eventually kills herself. To make matters worse, when she finally becomes what she had been pursuing, the end result is she can’t read anymore! 

I’m sure another reader would be more focused on how Lexi pissed her life away and then killed herself when The Night Bookmobile’s driver wouldn’t hire her, but I would like to focus on the act of reading for the moment. Imagine, here you are wandering around at night and you happen upon an awesome bus with your life’s read collection to date. 

You come back the next night and there’s no bus. You become so obsessed with the bus you begin searching for it and when you can’t find it you begin reading voraciously. You read so voraciously that when you chance upon the bus again, the collection has grown exponentially. It gets to the point where your life’s read collection is beyond visual scope when you first enter the bus for the last time and when you go back home there’s books everywhere.

To a voracious reader I’m sure this sounds awesome. How could you be unhappy with being surrounded by books? Not only that, but The Night Bookmobile has fed your passion for reading so much it has taken over your life! Then you die and end up in a library… where reading is reserved for the living. Heaven and Hell mixed into one!

I’m not sure if it’s Lexi herself or if it’s my perception, but I felt the story was tinged with sadness throughout. Lexi had this wonderful passion for books, but underneath it was a passion for The Night Bookmobile and I think a bit of a daddy complex with the driver. She wanted his approval and to impress him with her reading material. She was willing to die for The Night Bookmobile. Isn’t that heartbreaking?

This leads to my perplexing feelings towards the story. I’m saddened, but have received a happy buzz at the same time! Lexi, to me, represents someone who ambles through life without ever reaching a point of contentment. It takes one thing to finally fulfil her, which she then strives to reach once again until her self-inflicted demise. I loved the concept and want a Night Bookmobile for myself, except with unread material included in the bus and the added bonus of continuing to read once you become a librarian. I love the concept so much I want to find out more about The Night Bookmobile and how the system works.

If you’re a reader, a book collector, and a lover of libraries then you might want to read The Night Bookmobile, especially if you are given to nostalgia and are a fan of graphic novels. It’s a short story, but I think the content makes it an emotionally lasting one.

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In Case You Missed it: BA’s Posting Challenge is beginning soon, join in the fun. The Go Indie challenge is feeling neglected, submit a review and you could win a prize! See what’s new with BA’s Book Features. Catch up with BA’s reading challenges for 2013.

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