Run, by Ann Patchett

RunI’ve had Ann Patchett on my list of authors to get around to for some time now, so I’m very glad my book club chose this book and gave me that push to actually do so. But now I think I have to put her on my list of authors to give another shot, because this book? Didn’t really do it for me.

It’s a weird book to try to talk about (note to book clubs: does not make a great meeting), because while I read it eagerly over the course of four hours or so, I managed to come away with no strong feelings about it.

The plot is… weird. It centers on this wealthy political family in Boston with a dad and three sons, two of whom are adopted and black in an otherwise very white family. The dad dotes on the adopted sons; the biological son is kind of a screwup. Then the dad and the two adopted sons go to a Jesse Jackson event and afterward one of the sons is very nearly killed by a car except that he gets pushed out of the way at the last moment… by his biological mother.

Now, that sounds really cool, I think, but the book does not do the cool things with it that I would have wanted. The mother stays mostly unconscious in the hospital for the duration of the book, so we don’t get terribly much from her except for a strange interlude where she talks to her dead best friend. Instead we focus on the mother’s daughter, who knows that the brothers are her brothers and has apparently been keeping an eye on them with her mother all her life and is now being taken care of by this family that apparently didn’t have enough issues already.

The book does some interesting things. It opens with this fantastic story about a statue that I probably could have read an entire novel about. I can see it doing cool things with repetition and layered meanings. It talks about race, class, family dynamics, how our choices affect other people, all that good stuff. But for all the talking it does, I’m not sure what it’s trying to tell me.

In our book club meeting, my friend who picked the book mentioned that this book reads a lot like a fairy tale, with allegories and magical realism and things that just don’t make sense if you’re trying to read this as a straightforward novel. Unfortunately, the allegories of the book are largely political, calling to mind to my friends the Kennedys and other politicians and their various scandals, but my understanding of these references ended at knowing that Ted Kennedy was a person, so.

So onto the list of authors to try again Patchett goes. Maybe if I can read her awesome writing with some references that I understand, I’ll do a lot better!

Recommendation: For people who know politics, probably, and people interested in some weirdly twisty plot lines.

Rating: 6/10

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3 thoughts on “Run, by Ann Patchett

  1. Heather says:

    I’m a fan of Ann Patchett and Bel Canto is one of my favorite books of all time. That being said, the premise of this one doesn’t really call to me, which is probably why I haven’t picked it up yet. I do want to read all of her novels at some point so I’ll get to it eventually. Her essays are also fantastic. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, her most recent essay collection, is absolutely wonderful. I’d highly recommend that for you next, especially since you liked her writing.

  2. Jaclyn says:

    Did you ever give her another shot? My first Patchett was “State of Wonder” (if you’ve read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, that’s the book she thinks she gave Patchett with a kiss), and it was mind-bogglingly wonderful. “Truth and Beauty” is a lovely love story about her best friend. Run was … just OK, I agree. I read it quickly, and I loved the characters, but as a whole, it wasn’t my favorite. (I did happen to pick it up on a long weekend in Michigan and found a signed copy at a little bookstore, so I might love the book itself more than the story.) I’ve heard similar good things as Heather about Bel Canto & Happy Marriage. The story of Patron Saint of Liars super calls to me.

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