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Run (Patchett) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
Run, with a title that suggests many things (including Kenya's athletic prowess and Doyle's political drive), and with a watery looking cover that reflects the whole book's aura of a human aquarium, becomes an elegant melange of family ties. Ms. Patchett gives her readers much to contemplate when genetics, privilege, opportunity and nurture come into play. And to her credit she is neither vague nor reductive about any of these things; she creates a genuinely rich landscape of human possibility…Run…shimmers with its author's rarefied eloquence, and with the deep resonance of her insights.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


This fifth novel by the author of the much-admired Bel Canto is engaging, surprising, provocative and moving. Its force is diminished somewhat by a couple of extended passages in which Ann Patchett resorts to conversation rather than action to fill in some of her plot's holes, but these are minor annoyances in what is otherwise a thoroughly intelligent book, an intimate domestic drama that nonetheless deals with big issues touching us all: religion, race, class, politics and, above all else, family.
Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post


Novelists can no longer take it as an insult when people say their novels are like good television, because the finest American television is better written than most novels. Ann Patchett's new one has the texture, the pace and the fairy tale elegance of a half dozen novels she might have read and loved growing up, but the magic and the finesse of Run is really much closer to that of Six Feet Under or ER or The Sopranos, and that is good news for everybody, not least her readers. Bernadette and Bernard Doyle were a Boston couple who wanted to have a big lively family. They had one boy, Sullivan, and then adopted two black kids, Teddy and Tip. Mr. Doyle is a former mayor of Boston and he continues his interest in politics, hoping his boys will shape up one day for elected office, though none of them seems especially keen. Bernadette dies when the adopted kids are just four, and much of the book offers a placid requiem to her memory in particular and to the force of motherhood in lives generally. An old statue from Bernadette's side of the family seems to convey miracles, and there will be more than one before this gracious book is done. One night, during a heavy snowfall, Teddy and Tip accompany their father to a lecture given by Jessie Jackson at the Kennedy Centre. Tip is preoccupied with studying fish, so he feels more than a little coerced by his father. After the lecture they get into an argument and Tip walks backwards in the road. A car appears out of nowhere and so does a woman called Tennessee, who pushes Tip out of the car's path and is herself struck. Thus, a woman is taken to hospital and her daughter, Kenya, is left in the company of the Doyles. Relationships begin both to emerge and unravel, disclosing secrets, hopes, fears. Run is a novel with timeless concerns at its heart—class and belonging, parenthood and love—and if it wears that heart on its sleeve, then it does so with confidence. And so it should: the book is lovely to read and is satisfyingly bold in its attempt to say something patient and true about family. Patchett knows how to wear big human concerns very lightly, and that is a continuing bonus for those who found a great deal to admire in her previous work, especially the ultra-lauded Bel Canto. Yet one should not mistake that lightness for anything cosmetic: Run is a book that sets out inventively to contend with the temper of our times, and by the end we feel we really know the Doyle family in all its intensity and with all its surprises.
Andrew O'Hagan - Publishers Weekly


Two families come together in a traffic accident during a snowstorm. Nothing terribly unusual there, except that a woman has purposely thrown herself under a car to protect a stranger. It quickly becomes clear that the families-a poor, single black mother with her 11-year-old daughter and a white, Irish Catholic, former Boston mayor with a biological son and two adopted black college-aged sons whose much-loved wife died over 20 years ago-have a connection. The award-winning Patchett (Bel Canto) here presents an engrossing and enjoyable novel. While there are a few unexpected turns, the reader very quickly figures out where the plot is headed, but that does not detract from the pleasure of reading. The somewhat unusual premise is presented very matter-of-factly; this is not a story about race but about family and the depths of parents' love of their children, whether biological, adopted, given away, or otherwise acquired, and of each other.
Sarah Conrad Weisman - Library Journal


A family-of-man fable that reads a little too pat to ring true. Like the popular previous novel by Patchett (Bel Canto, 2001), this one finds an unexpected incident connecting and affecting a seemingly disparate cast of characters, isolating them within their own microcosm. The setting is Boston-very Catholic, very political, very racially divided-on the snowiest evening in more than two decades, when a large group gathers to hear a speech by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Among them is widower Bernard Doyle, once the city's mayor until a scandal involving his oldest son compromised his career (one of the underdeveloped subplots here). Still a political junkie, Doyle wants his two adopted, college-age African-American sons to express more interest in his passion. Though he'd had high political aspirations for these two-even going so far as to name them Tip and Teddy-both are pursuing different paths. Tip wants to be a scientist studying fish; Teddy hears the call of the priesthood, likely inspired by his adoptive mother's uncle, the elderly Father Sullivan. The priest has reluctantly gained notoriety as a faith healer (another underdeveloped subplot), though he doesn't believe he has extraordinary powers, and his own faith has become shaky. Leaving the Jackson speech, Tip steps amid the swirling snow into the path of an SUV. A woman with her young daughter pushes him out of the way, letting the SUV hit her. Is the woman Tip's real mother? (And Teddy's?) Is the young daughter their sister? Why do she and her mother seem to know so much more about the Doyles than they know about her? What do we make of the statue of the Virgin Mary that looks so much like the only mother Tip and Teddy have known? And what about that significant plot twist revealed in conversation between a dead woman and one who may be dying? By the time the extended family converges on the hospital, it has become plain that neither these people nor this family can ever be the same. Compelling story but thematically heavy-handed.
Kirkus Reviews




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