Sunday, January 13, 2008

Run by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is one of those authors that, after reading Bel Canto, I wanted to make sure to watch for any new books by her. Run is her latest book. It is set in Boston in a stereotypical Irish family with a kind-hearted, yet domineering patriarch, Bernard Doyle. The typical Irish-American family breaks down when Bernard’s wife, Bernadette, can not have any more children after the birth of their first child, Sullivan. The family adopts two African-American brothers; Tip is 14 months old when he’s adopted 5 days after they bring home Teddy, a newborn. The heart of the book is set when Tip and Teddy are in college and facing decisions about what to do next. Unbeknownst to them, their birth mother, Tennessee, has always known who adopted her sons and has kept track of them, even attending the same political events that Bernard has dragged Tip and Teddy to over the years. One 24-hour period changes all of their relations forever.

The story is told in multiple third person points-of-view. Kenya, as the 11-year old daughter of Tennessee, has a significant voice. When Kenya unexpectedly ends up at the Doyle’s house she is amazed to be there for many reasons, some of which catch her by surprise. “She did not think of where she was or what had happened. She could do nothing but take in the light. It had never occurred to her before that all the places she had slept in her life had been dark, that her own apartment had never seen a minute of this kind of sun.” (pg 156) Telling the story from multiple points-of-view allows one to really understand what all the main characters are going through. It becomes clear that Sullivan has always felt outshone by the two adopted children. He was twelve when his family adopted Tip and Teddy and his mother died only fours years after that. “This business of coming back to take your little part in the play you would never again be the star of was simply more than anyone should have to bear.” (pg 255) The writing is very lyrical and slow-paced. It almost feels as though everything is happening underwater, giving it a very beautiful sheen, but it becomes clear that all cannot end well.

I think one neat thing about Ann Patchett’s writing is that her books are all so different, but contain the underlying theme of really examining the connections between people. Run does not have as unique a premise as Bel Canto, but it is still a good read. Other books I’d recommend by Ann Patchett include the novel The Patron Saint of Liars, and the memoir Truth and Beauty about her friendship with another author, Lucy Grealy. Lucy Grealy is the author of Autobiography of a Face, which is about her battles with cancer and endless surgeries. And really the main reason to read Truth and Beauty is to find out what happened to Lucy after her memoir ends.

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