Thursday, September 25, 2008

Run by Ann Patchett

In Run, Ann Patchett shows how a single event can change your life forever. The book follows the Doyle family--former Boston mayor Bernard Doyle, his adopted sons Tip and Teddy, and his biological son Sullivan--for 24 hours, beginning with an argument over politics that leads to an accident. The accident brings the Doyles in contact with Tennessee Moser and her 11-year-old daughter, Kenya. The Doyles meet the Mosers for the first time at the scene of the accident, but they soon discover that the Mosers know them--and the secret revealed by Kenya causes Tip and Teddy to rethink everything they thought they knew about their family.

Patchett says Run centers on the issue of politics, but I don't see that as the main theme. There is Bernard's past as mayor, his insistence that Tip and Teddy accompany him to political events, and Tennessee's interest in political issues, but I don't think politics plays that much of a role in the story. (While the title Run might hint at running for office, Kenya excels at track and runs as a way to shed all the stress and troubles that plague her.)

Run makes you think about what it means to be a family. Tip and Teddy are African American brothers adopted by a white couple. Their mother, Bernard's wife Bernadette, is absent from the story, as she died when the boys were young. Bernadette, however, opens the novel telling Bernard shortly after their wedding about the Virgin Mary statue that is an integral part of her family's history and has been passed from mother to daughter for many years. Tip and Teddy are forced to confront their feelings for the adoptive mother who took them in, met their every need during her short life, and loved them unconditionally, as well as their feelings for the biological mother who gave them up.

Patchett's writing is beautiful, packing a lot of emotion into seemingly simple sentences. She cried from happiness, a concept that had previously never made any sense to her at all. So strong was her love at that moment she felt her heart knocking wildly against her chest as if the heart itself was leaping forward to the woman in the bed. (page 272) Though the story mainly chronicles one 24-hour period (aside from the scenes at the very beginning and the very end), there is enough back story to engage the reader. Patchett paces the story perfectly; it never seems rushed or dragged out. The characters of Bernard, Teddy, Tip, and Kenya are well developed, each clearly evolving during the hours following the accident. I enjoyed watching how Kenya is absorbed into the Doyle family rather quickly, and Patchett does a great job balancing Kenya's innocence with a wisdom beyond her years. She also expertly captures the pain of losing a spouse and mother and its impact on the Doyle men.

Patchett created such an interesting character in Sullivan, but she didn't flesh him out as well as the others. She hints that he was in trouble with the law in Africa, which led him to hastily and unexpectedly return home. She delves into Sullivan's past and his falling out with his father, but we never learn what happened in Africa. The spotlight clearly is on Tip and Teddy. Nevertheless, Run was a great, quick read that raises some questions about the definition of family, one's identity within the family unit, and a parent's desire to protect his/her children at all costs.

Run also was reviewed by:

Savvy Verse & Wit
B&b ex libris
Everyday I Write the Book Blog
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
medieval bookworm
Peeking Between the Pages
Fizzy Thoughts
Book Chatter and Other Stuff...
The Printed Page
She Is Too Fond Of Books

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Run from the publisher for review purposes.


Tricia said...

I keep hearing such great stuff about Ann Patchett, but I've never read any of her books yet. Great review!

Anna said...

Thanks, Tricia! This was the first Ann Patchett book I've read. I want to read Bel Canto, and I snagged The Magician's Assistant at a library sale this summer but haven't read it yet. If you ever read this book or any of her others, let me know. I'd love to hear what you think!

Ladytink_534 said...

I'm almost positive I've read one of Patchett's books before but I can't remember what it was :(

Serena said...

You must have enjoyed this book more than I did. I don't think the pace was spot on at all. I was always disrupted by some text that had no purpose...and I was kind of amused by the quickness with which the Doyle family folded Kenya into the family. I thought that this was a bit too quick; the emotions are too raw and deep to foster such a quick adoption.

I was not pleased with this book at all. I hope Bel Canto is better, like I've been hearing. I like Patchett's use of language though; I just think this novel need more editing.

Anna said...

Hi Ladytink! If you ever remember what book it was, please stop in and tell me!

Serena, I enjoyed our lunchtime chat about the book today. I think a lot of why Kenya was embraced so quickly might be because she had no one and needed someone. The boys thought she was their family and accepted her. Also, there was the accident and maybe they weren't thinking quite clearly yet. Doyle was a little resistant. I agree that maybe there should have been some conflict about it with Tip and Teddy, but it still felt believable to me.

You'll have to let me know about Bel Canto.

S. Krishna said...

This sounds like an interesting book - nice review!

Anonymous said...

Good review - I've only recently become aware of Patchett and it sounds like I should add her to my TBR list (sigh - the list grows faster than my wallet these days). Interesting also to read the difference of opinion and perspective between Serena and you. Rare is the book that EVERYBODY loves everything about, indeed. Also interesting to me will be the reactions/feedback of you, Anna and Serena - you will both be reading/reviewing my Owen Fiddler novel shortly.

As usual, good post!

Marvin Blogs at Free Spirit:
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Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Great review! I've been seeing this one around lately and I'll have to look for it. I read Bel Canto a few years ago and really loved it and have been afraid that nothing else will live up to my expectations. I do have The Patron Saints of Liars on my shelf but know nothing about it. This sounds like a great read, though.

Anna said...

S. Krishna: Thanks! If you get a chance to read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Marvin: I don't even want to talk about how big my TBR pile! Thank goodness for the library because I couldn't afford all the books I want to read, nor do I have the space to store them. Serena and I have known each other for 13 years, and I enjoy it when we disagree about books because we get some great lunchtime chats out of it! I'm looking forward to reading your book!

Trish: Thanks! I haven't read Bel Canto or The Patron Saint of Liars but they're both on my TBR list. I've heard lots of good things about Bel Canto.

Anonymous said...

Great review! I agree about politics not being the main theme, despite Patchett's comment. I couldn't get into Bel Canto, but I found copies of The Magician's Assistant and The Patron Saint of Liars through PBS, so I'm curious to see if I can make it through those.

Anonymous said...

Anna, great review.

I think I'd like the political 'subtheme.'

What you said about Patchett packing a lot of emotion into simple sentences reminds me a bit of what I love about Ian McEwan.

Darlene said...

This book was more about family than politics for me too. I really wanted more on Sullivan and am still disappointed that he wasn't more developed. Thanks for linking my review-I linked yours too. :)

Anna said...

Softdrink: I've seen a lot of reviews that disagree with Patchett's comment on politics being the main theme. Just goes to show how people read things differently. If you read The Magician's Assistant or The Patron Saint of Liars let me know what you think!

Shana: I haven't read any Ian McEwan. I started Atonement, but couldn't get into it, so I gave up. Everybody raves about that book, so maybe someday I'll give it another go.

Dar: Thanks for linking to my review! I really wish we knew more about Sullivan. I liked the other characters, but I thought Sullivan was far more interesting than the others.

Liz said...

We read this for my book club a month ago. I never got into Bel Canto, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Loss and pain has been on my bookshelf recently, as I just finished another novel of redemption and recovery, Recovering Charles, by NYT best-selling author Jason Wright. It's the story of a man whose life is seemingly going well, until he gets the call to come find his father in post-Katrina New Orleans.The "recovery" is more than just physical.

Anna said...

Liz: Glad you enjoyed Run. Thanks for letting me know about Recovering Charles. I haven't heard of this book, but I'll look into it. And thanks for stopping by my blog!

tanabata said...

Great review! I really need to read something else by Patchett. I really enjoyed Bel Canto when I read it a few years ago, but haven't read anything since. The usual so many books, so little time excuse.

Anna said...

Tanabata: Yeah, it's an excuse, but it's so true!! I was putting another new book in my book shelf last night, and I saw how many I haven't read yet and wondered how I'll ever read them all. But I enjoy the challenge!!

I hope to get a chance to read Bel Canto someday!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning my blog as part of your post. It seems that we're all over the board about our feelings on 'Run'. I'm one of those who didn't particularly enjoy this book but suspected I wouldn't going into it. I find it valuable to read what others are saying as I'm starting to view part of the story lines in a different light.

Anna said...

Marcia: You're very welcome! I did notice the differing opinions about the book. I think that's one of the best things about book blogging--you read a review that takes a different approach and you look at things differently.