four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
By: 
Ann Patchett
user_rating: 
0

A-RunWhen Bernadette Doyle dies, she leaves behind her ambitious husband, Bernard, a former Irish Catholic mayor of Boston; a ne’er-do-well son, Sullivan; two adopted African American boys, Teddy and Tip—and a holy statue of the Virgin Mary that supposedly produces miracles. On a snowy night years later, as Tip (the smarter one), Teddy (the sweeter one), and their father engage in a heated debate after a Jesse Jackson lecture, an apparent stranger named Tennessee pushes Tip away from the danger of an oncoming car. Hurt, Tennessee is rushed to the hospital, while her 11-year-old daughter, Kenya, a gifted runner, remains with the Doyles. As these families come together, coincidences and long-hidden secrets emerge that forever change their lives.
HarperCollins. 295 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0061340634

Chicago Tribune 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Run, which I believe is Patchett’s finest work, has its share of the bewitching: a Catholic priest whose hands may be agents of healing; a conversation (or is it a dream?) between an anesthetized patient and her long-dead best friend; and collisions of the bodily and happenstance kind. … Whether writing about fish or family traditions or faith or dying, Patchett, in Run, goes deep in the right directions, never taking the story off its track but never glossing things either, for the sake of lyricism." Beth Kephart

New York Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Ms. Patchett gives her readers much to contemplate when genetics, privilege, opportunity and nurture come into play. … Run still shimmers with its author’s rarefied eloquence, and with the deep resonance of her insights." Janet Maslin

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"And then there is the exquisite, bursting-at-the-seams Kenya—a girl who earns the title of the novel in one breathtaking scene, and who is as much a balm to the reader as she is to this new gaggle of men she finds herself among. Through her ever-mutable youth and sharp perceptions, we’re privy to Boston’s many worlds: its tony South End comforts a stone’s throw away from housing projects, its spiritual and physical way stations, whether a zoology lab on a snowbound day or the sad, blurry room of a dying priest." Gail Caldwell

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"The novel’s action takes place in a 24-hour period, but dialogue and characters’ reminiscences reveal the past that has brought them to the present moment. … Like Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett explores big questions without pretentiousness." Kathy Ewing

Kansas City Star 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s about the juncture where political meets personal, the place where policy ceases to be abstraction and becomes a person at the door seeking shelter. … And after reading it, one can ‘feel more,’ and try harder, as Patchett seems to be asking us in this novel of personal and social accountability." Jeffrey Ann Goudie

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"The sculpture—which comes with a compelling cautionary tale—is a powerful leitmotif, but Run is more concerned with emotional legacies and belonging than with physical objects. … This author always makes me believe in her inventive, entrancing plots and her indelible characters—right down to their lucid, telling dreams." Kerry Fried

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"This fifth novel by the author of the much-admired Bel Canto is engaging, surprising, provocative and moving. … Endings in novels aren’t easy and sometimes really don’t matter, since in the reader’s mind the characters keep right on living, but Patchett has given this one an ending that is just about perfect." Jonathan Yardley

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 2 of 5 Stars
"With the exception of Sullivan, the prodigal son whose errant ways are never fully explored, these characters are just too darn nice, absent the rough edges that would add dimension and intrigue to their personalities. … The result is that Run lacks the dramatic tension and tough-mindedness that might have turned a promising novel into a fine one." Whitney Gould

New York Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"Run shies away from the thorniest questions Patchett implicitly raises: What does it mean when a white politician adopts black sons in a city where many black constituents live in poverty? … It’s difficult to understand why an author would seed her story with potentially rich material only to refrain from exploring it." Leah Hager Cohen

Critical Summary

Ann Patchett writes about families—from The Patron Saint of Liars (1992), in which young, unwed mothers become family, to Bel Canto (2001), in which hostages and their kidnappers forms unexpected bonds. Beautifully written, Run again explores family, this time through the lenses of birth, class, and race. While mainly a domestic drama, Run also touches on larger themes—such as social exclusion, privilege, and obligation; politics; and religion and the afterlife. Critics overall lauded Patchett’s thematic depth, though a couple of reviewers noted her failure to delve deeply enough. And while most characters—particularly Kenya—captivated them, a few also described them as unrealistically sympathetic. Despite these minor complaints, Run is, at best, that rare, mature work that exquisitely dissects human relationships and possibilities.