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Run Paperback – Deckle Edge, July 29, 2008
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From the Back Cover
Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard cares about is his ability to keep his children—all his children—safe.
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Ann Patchett has the marvelous ability to write about family relationships in a way that the end of the book is always a surprise. I have loved her writing since reading Bel Canto, and this book will be added to my list of favorites. Highly recommended.
I've read them all, all of her novels. This one I loved more than some others. The passages that included Father Sullivan were especially meaningful. Thank you for your insights to a strange but heartwarming family with such odd but beautiful connections.
Run is set in present-day Boston, but as with Bel Canto, it is not the setting that is most important, or the novel's great strength, but it is the people, their intersections, and the questions they raise: about adoption, about family, about community, about politics, and about why we try to make of our lives what we do. One could argue (as is discussed in the worthwhile interview with the author) that the book is about any one of these things, but the way it touches on truths relating to all of these themes gives the story its power, regardless of your background.
I was hoping to simply read Run for enjoyment--e.g. not make notes, just drift along on the current of the story--but then I kept coming across effortlessly polished pearls of wisdom and so the moleskine had to come out. Observations like this: "His undoing had started out simply, as undoings often will," or "It was a sign of maturity that he could recognize a peaceful moment and decide to let it stand" show how Patchett, like other great writers, points us to truths about life that resonate even if we haven't experienced them. And that is one of fiction's greatest gifts. I will actively seek out more of Patchett's work in the future.
Top international reviews
In 1988, Bernadette died, leaving behind her husband Bernard Doyle, a difficult 17 year old son Sullivan, and two black brothers they had adopted, Tip (5) and Teddy (4). The family are Catholic Irish- Americans.
Most of the story is set 16 years later, in the bitterly cold and snowy winter of 2004. Doyle had taken charge of the Tip and Teddy and had been greatly ambitious for them. Tip had got into Harvard. Teddy was at law school. Doyle, who at one time had been a Mayor of Boston, is keen for the boys to go into politics, and drags them along, on a snowy winter’s night, to a lecture given by Jesse Jackson. The boys, now 21 and 20, are still very obedient to their father, but grudgingly so. They are not interested in politics: Tip is reluctant to tear himself away from his beloved and responsible job in the ichthyological department of the university’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, while Teddy has become deeply religious and Had to tear himself away from visiting a beloved and very frail 88-year-old great-uncle, Father John Sullivan. Father Sullivan lived in a clergy retirement home. There he was besieged by invalids hoping for a miracle cure, since two women had told the press that he had cured their ailments with his prayers.
Leaving the lecture hall, there is a bad accident in the snow: Tip is knocked to safety, though with an injured leg, from an oncoming car by a black woman, Tennessee Moser, who is herself much worse hurt when the car hits her and is taken to hospital. Her daughter, eleven year old Kenya, is not allowed to stay with her at the hospital, and says she knows no one with whom we could stay; so Doyle and the boys take her back to their own home.
Doyle and the boys did not know – but Kenya knew and now told them – that Tennessee was the birth mother of Tip and Teddy. Tennessee and her daughter had been surreptitiously watching them for years, and Kenya had often examined the outside of their house. Initially Doyle and Tip claimed indifference (though this did not last long); Teddy was more intrigued and involved. And it was Teddy who (with his half-brother Sullivan, who had suddenly turned up from Uganda) went to see Tennessee in hospital just before her operation. Tennessee was barely conscious, but she recognized the two whom she had watched surreptitiously for so long; and she took on board that Kenya was now staying with them.
From then onwards, the book deteriorates, I think. There are still a few interesting episodes: we learn the tragic circumstances that had led Sullivan to leave America and that had ended Doyle’s political career. - Teddy persuaded Father Sullivan to visit Tennessee in hospital after she had come round from her operation and to pray over her. He recognized her as the cherished carer who had once worked at the retirement home. He then has a heart episode which makes him, too, a patient at the hospital. For good measure, Tip was also back there as a patient: on the way to the hospital, his crutches had slipped in the snow; he had fallen and suffered more injuries. - And we learn the significance of the book’s title: Kenya was a brilliant and passionate runner, a real star.
But for the rest, I rather lost interest in the rambling story. There is a curious chapter in which Tennessee hallucinates over being visited by a dead friend called Tennessee Alice Moser, leaving the reader with the suggestion that perhaps Kenya was the latter’s daughter whom Tennessee had taken over when her mother after Tennessee Alice Moser had died.
The last chapter is an epilogue, four and half years after Tennessee’s death. It is mainly about the academic careers of Tip and Teddy in those four and a half years, which is not what one would have suspected and their intentions for the future which are truer to their real interests.
Two grown up adopted brothers have been watched closely, Unknown to them, by their birth Mother and her young daughter.
One snowy night they meet up in an unconventional way.
The trouble was all the characters were one dimensional and the author made that fatal mistake of only having a single outstanding trait that had to be mentioned every time the character was brought into the story.
Then it started to get more absurd and trashy and therefore had a very dull and disappointing ending. I am surprised I stayed with it
I am even more surprised this author has won prizes
But there are secrets in the family, and these are revealed gradually as the story unfolds. (At this stage, I confess that I wished I had been reading this as a book rather an an ebook, as I kept wondering whether I had missed something earlier on, and turning back to check would have been easier with a hard copy). As the family learn these secrets, and a close relationship is built up with Kenya, questions are answered and important decisions made.
This is not a page-turner, but it is beautifully written, and I loved the characters; passionate icthyologist Tip, gentle spiritual Teddy (Sullivan is harder to get to know, but then I suspect this was deliberate), and the lovely elderly priest, Father Sullivan, the boys' great-uncle. But my favourite was Kenya. Bright, passionate and kind, the eleven-year-old girl is an outstanding runner, and the descriptions of her love of running - of the speed and the freedom and the sheer joy she gets from her sport - made me almost want to join her!
My only problem with this novel is that it feels slightly fragmented, perhaps because of the way the family secrets are disclosed. But otherwise I enjoyed it very much.
The great thing about Patchett is that you come to understand and feel some empathy for all the characters in her book - even the less sympathetic at first like the eldest son Sullivan who seems wayward and uncaring but even he has his reasons. The story unfolds beautifully page by page - you can live in it. That is the thing - Patchett has a magical way with words and never forgets that a book is always better for the small twists and interesting turns it takes - like exploring a house and finding secret rooms. Nothing is necearrily quite what it seems - from the 'lost' teenage girl Kenya to Doyle the widowed father of three grown up sons. Doyle seems the strongest, most dominant character, but as so often in life, outward appearances to some degree deceive. That is what makes this another winner from Patchett. Her very real, beautifully drawn characters and totally engaging plot.
Run contains the questioning and honesty that shines through in her writing.
The characters and plot grab you from the very first page.