I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been reading.
March Madness is upon me and 5 days in, I’ve managed 2 of my 10 reads.
I decided to start with a book that has been on my shelf for probably well over 5 years and had been started and abandoned several times.
In Run, Ann Patchett explores the fall-out from an unexpected encounter between two young African-American brothers, raised as the adopted sons of the white mayor of Boston, and their biological mother, who appears suddenly on a cold winter evening and saves one of the siblings from an oncoming car. While in hospital, her daughter is left in the charge of the family and over the ensuing 24 hours, this accident sparks a series of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.
Patchett has been very successful at taking unlikely plots and turning them into believable, readable novels. Bel Canto, her previous and (in my mind) more effective work, was about an opera singer performing for a Japanese ambassadorial party in South America whose guests are all taken hostage in a coup attempt. What she created there was a magical and moving tale. Like Bel Canto, Run shows the reader how spheres of privilege and poverty can exist side by side and how humanity connects seemingly disparate lives through secrets, responsibility, duty and finally love.
This is a heart-warming book, filled with heart-warming people who are basically trying to do the best they can for the people they love. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. So much fiction can be cold, analytical, and critical – Patchett however, never forgets the beating heart. Her strengths are to present these characters without sentimentality through some beautiful prose;
Anger and sadness and a sense of injustice that was bigger than any one thing that had happened stoked an enormous fire in her chest and that fire kept her heart alive, a beautiful, infallible machine.
Where the book fails a little for me is in its treatment of the ‘big issues’ that are raised early on. Race, class, adoption, and politics – all are there, but none are really examined in any detail. She plants the story with a great deal of potential then never fully harvests it. As such, the realism of her novel is slight, creating characters who feel as symbolic as the saintly statue at the centre of the story. Possibly Patchett wants her readers to escape into the world as it should be, rather than the harsh, hard place it can be. She is speaking up for human potential and avoiding sentimentality in the process, reminding us that
In life there was never a limitless number of nights.
Which is a good thing to remember…
Read On: Book
Number Read: 13
Number Remaining: 733