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Fiction Literary

The Librarianist

A Novel

by (author) Patrick deWitt

House of Anansi Press Inc
Initial publish date
Jul 2023
Literary, Family Life, Friendship
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2023
    List Price

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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 outsized 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.

About the author


Patrick deWitt was born on Vancouver Island in 1975. He is the author of two critically acclaimed novels: Ablutions and The Sisters Brothers, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Stephen Leacock Medal, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He lives in Portland, Oregon.


Patrick deWitt's profile page

Editorial Reviews

The Librarianist is a novel that’s interested in happiness … There are elements to be savoured in the nuance of particulars on the page.

Zoomer Magazine

The Librarianist is another charmer from an author who knows how to delight.


A page-turner… an entertaining menagerie of strange characters and numerous apt and evocative phrases. And the divergent possibilities in the novel’s ambiguous ending scene give readers two very different stories to ponder after the final word.

Willamette Week

Gripping, random, and totally alive.


deWitt’s great gift lies in his ability to depict the Everyman in extremis – heroism hidden in plain sight.

The Daily Telegraph

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.


Bright and entertaining from beginning to end.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

A character study of almost defiant gentleness.

The Times

deWitt’s great achievement is in creating, perhaps for the first time, a character whose very ordinariness is his defining feature … The aching heart of The Librarianist is a piercing seriocomic character study of isolation and abandonment.

Toronto Star

A touching, affectionate novel showing, without cliché or agenda, that engagement in old age is a courageous act to be applauded.

Big Issue

This novel begs to be read.


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

deWitt is one of the great literary ventriloquists, producing funny, quirky, richly imagined novels shaped each time by a wildly different narrative voice.

Daily Mail

Filled with profound heartbreak and humour … After just a few pages of acclimatization to his style, we’re immersed in deWitt’s world.

Winnipeg Free Press

deWitt is at his best writing dramatic and comedic scenes … He’s a writer who plays with the conventions of the realist novel.

British Columbia Review

Utterly charming … 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.

Chicago Tribune

Personal and existential ... deWitt cobbles together a complicated but heartfelt treatise on introversion and the value of a life lived through books ... [The Librarianist] never strays far from what makes his novels so delightful: his dexterity with language, his interest in what happens when words fail, and the rare moments where they land.


deWitt’s writing and endearing characters create a memorable world.

Los Angeles Times

Quirky [and] Incredibly unique … Not only entertaining, but award-worthy.

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