Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: Run by Ann Patchett

Run by Ann Patchett

Description: 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 Doyle cares about is his ability to keep his children, all his children, safe.

Set over a period of 24 hours, Run takes us from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to a home for retired Catholic priests in downtown Boston. It shows us how worlds of privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart from one another, and how family can include people you've never even met.

Run by Ann Patchett was the selection for my book club this month. It was a great book to discuss with a book club as there are so many layers to the story to discuss. The story emphasizes the point that the events in a single day can change your life completely. There are many themes to this book...political issues of race, class and family. It is the kind of book that can take on many perspectives from the readers standpoint. Many of my friends in my book club felt this was a political book, others felt it was more focused on family. I found it to be a blend of the two.

To me, it made me think about the definition of family and what it means to each person can be quite different. Is a family by definition, only those who are related by blood? I think that there is so much more to being a family than shared bloodlines. I have both a brother and a half-brother. I am closer to my half-brother and we didn't grow up together for most of our childhood. We have a bond and closeness that I do not share with my full brother who I grew up with. There are many factors and events that may have affected that but I find it interesting that my connection to my half-brother runs so much deeper. In this story, a white family (Bernadette, Doyle and Sullivan) adopt two young african american boys, Tip and Teddy. I found it refreshing to read how the issue of race in this family made no difference in their choice of adoption and the way they raised the boys. They loved them unconditionally as if they were their own children by birth. Sadly, Bernadette dies shortly after and this effects them all in many ways. Their biological son, Sullivan, was more effected by the adoption as he was an only child and the focus shifted away from him after the boys were adopted. He also had to deal with the death of his mother and it appears to me that this effected him deeply and changed the course of his life tremendously. There is a theme throughout the book that relates to the importance of motherhood and how that loss can effect a child and family.

There are other characters in the book that make a direct impact to the story as well. Uncle Sullivan, the namesake of the biological son, Sullivan. Who has an intense bond to Teddy. Tennessee Moser a mysterious woman whose quick act of bravery will impact the lives of all of the characters in the story. Kenya is Tennessee's daughter who has an incredible maturity for an 11 year old girl and an olympic size ability to run.

The theme of politics dominates the book as this is the path that the father, has chosen as his role as a past mayor and would like his sons to pursue. He exposes them to many political experiences and speaking events and it is not a path that the boys are interested in pursuing. There was a suttle tie in to current political events with a sign posted in a window that caught my attention when reading the book. I found the explanation by the author in her On Air Show with Book Club Girl very interesting. You can listen to this wonderful conversation with Jennifer from Book Club Girl and the author Ann Patchett, HERE.

I believe that the title of the book, Run, reflects the idea that all of the characters are running from something. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read the book by saying more. I will tell that you should definitely read this book to uncover the meaning behind the title.

This was the second book that I have read by Ann Patchett. The first was Truth and Beauty which is a non-fiction book, a memoir of Patchett's friendship with Autobiography of a Face author Lucy Grealy. This book was a testament of the depth and beauty of their friendship even when life can bring such pain and agony. I read it a few years ago, before I started my blog, so I do not have a review here. I have Bel Canto and Patron Saint of Liars on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I look forward to reading more of Patchett's books.

You can read A Conversation with Ann Patchett from the back of the book, at this link HERE.

HERE is an Author Interview with Ann Patchett.

You can also visit Ann Patchett's Website.


  1. Very nice review. I read and enjoyed Run too although I did not write a review. I have read Bel Canto, it was one of my three top favourites the year that I read it. You'll want to read that the first chance you get. The Patron Saint of Liars is also very good. I have recently acquired copies of Truth and Beauty, The Magician's Assistant and Taft via Bookmooch so I have some good reading to look forward to. I can't wait to hear what you think of Bel Canto.

  2. Thanks Kathy and Sandra!

    Sandra-I actually started Bel Canto a few years ago and wasn't in the mindset to read it. That happens to me sometimes and I go back and love the book. I also have The Magician's Assistant to read, I forgot about that one. Bookmooch and Paperbackswap are great resources to trade books!!

  3. I read Run in preparation of Book Club Girl's show and I remember taking awhile to get into it. Towards the last quarter of the book it all seems to click for me. I enjoyed it. I thought about it for awhile too which is the sign of a well written book, at least for me!

  4. Bonnie, I'm glad you liked this book. It wasn't a favorite of mine. I preferred Bel Canto much more. I agree about mindset. Maybe that was my problem with Run. I don't know, it just didn't click with me. I found the characters rather stereotypical, which surprised me. There was one that I really wanted to know more about and he was kind of ignored - Sullivan. I think he could be the center of his own book!

  5. Awesome Review! I have never read any book by Ann, and I feel like I would like this book. Adopting kids from different races and loving them so unconditionally... is like awesome! I hope I can do that too!

    I hope to read it sometime :)

  6. Great review Bonnie. I really enjoyed this book.


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