On the first page of The Book Borrower, Toby Ruben & Deborah Laidlaw meet in a city playground where they are looking after their babies. Deborah lends Toby a book, Trolley Girl, a memoir about a 1920s trolley strike & three Jewish sisters, which will disappear & reappear throughout the twenty-two years these women are friends. Toby & Deborah raise children in the seventies while arguing over Patty Hearst & the meaning of life. They find work teaching inner-city day-care workers, a job that leads to conflict between them. Meanwhile, Toby reads the opening chapters of Trolley Girl with interest, but puts the book aside when its story turns tragic. Ten years later we find Toby & Deborah adjunct English instructors at a college. They are mothers of school-age children, stealing time to drink a beer, still deeply involved in their difficult friendship. The borrowed book has long since disappeared from Toby's consciousness. Another decade passes. Toby & Deborah spend a November afternoon hiking down a trail in the park. They never imagine that the outing will be their last together. In the final chapters of the novel, The Trolley Girl reemerges from Toby's dusty bookshelf & unexpectedly helps her come to terms with this agonizing loss.