Friday, June 22, 2007

#42 - Run

Ann Patchett's latest novel, Run, isn't coming out until October, which places me a bit between a rock and a hard place in terms of writing about it, because I think this is one of the books I'll be recommending full-on this fall. And I want to tell everyone to go out and read it right now, but it's not in stores. Regardless, it's the best American novel I've read in ages, if not the best book I've read over the last few months. Trust me: it's that good.

Set on a snowy day in Boston, probably in the same neighbourhood that was home to Jack Madigan's crumbling Town House, Run follows a 24-hour period in the lives of the Doyle family. Doyle Sr., a former mayor, has raised his two adoptive sons, Tip and Teddy, by himself since they were young and their mother died from throat cancer. An older brother, Sullivan, returns to the fold on the very day all of the events in the novel take place; he was exorcising his own demons in Africa.

The mixed races within the Doyle family (white father, white older brother, black, adoptive sons), has always been a fact, but never truly an issue until the day that Tip, the middle son, finds himself on the wrong side of a road all whited-out from the snow. If it were not for a mysterious woman pushing him out of the way of an oncoming SUV, getting dangerously hurt herself in the process, Tip would have died from his injuries (a broken ankle). The woman's 11-year-old daughter Kenya stands by and witnesses the entire accident, and when it's obvious that she has no one to call and no where to go, she comes back to stay with Doyle and the rest of his family until her mother is well enough to go home.

While Tennessee fights for her life in the hospital, requiring further surgeries and more medical attention, the Doyles come to terms with the fact that all is not quite as it seems. Essentially, sometimes a coincidence is more then just chance, and in this book, it's plain fate. Patchett's ultimate skill as a novelist rolls out all over this novel as she unveils, slowly, how the character's lives are intertwined. There's a lovely other-worldly aspect to the book too, in the form of Teddy's favourite uncle Sullivan, an aging priest who has healing abilities within his hands. Issues of race, of class, of education, of the importance of family, of motherless sons, of politics, are explored but never with the hammer-over-the-head mentality you might see if this was a movie of the week, but with spirit and empathy, with love and adoration, and with integrity and hope.

Also, it's a bloody good thing that Patchett knows how to hold together a narrative. She has a skill for swapping point of view all over the chapters, sometimes within pages, and yet I never felt adrift. Her voice, from character to character, is so strong that you never get lost, and instead find yourself drawn even further into the story as the book moves along. Sometimes she uses sentence structure to intimate a change, sometimes it's voice and dialogue, but you never feel like she's forced herself into the head of a character where she shouldn't—because so much of Run just reads right (if that makes any sense).

My goodness when I finished this book I bawled like a baby. I stayed for an extra half-hour at work last night just to finish it so I could ride home thinking about it. There are so many quotable passages, but as I don't have a photo in context for this particular book because I forgot my camera at home, I am going to leave you with these words instead:

The present life was only a matter of how things had stacked together in the past, and all Kenya knew for sure was that if she had the chance to hand over everything she had now in order to regain what was lost there would be no words for how fast she would open up her hands.


Beth said...

If it made you "bawl,' it's got to be good.
I'll be looking for it in October.

Tim Frederick said...

I really enjoyed Bel Canto. I'll keep an eye out for this one in the fall, too.

Kerry said...

Me too! Great review.

Kate S. said...

This one sounds great. I too will put it on my must-read list for fall.

Unknown said...

Did you see the non-fiction piece she wrote for the Washington Post Magazine?

My Boy is Ten

My friend Heather took this photo a couple of weekends ago. We went for a walk in the woods. It was a bit cold at first, neither my boy nor ...