Short Story Week: A Run in the Park by David Park #readingirelandmonth23

This week for Reading Ireland Month, I’m concentrating on short story collections and am kicking off with a heartfelt short work by Belfast writer David Park.

A Run in the Park by David Park was originally commissioned by Radio 4 as a radio play before being published as a slim book by Bloomsbury. It’s lighter than Park’s usual fare, but captures his innate ability to articulate the interior workings of his character’s minds.

A Run in the Park is a series of interlinked storie, each told from the point of view of a group of disparate strangers who have all signed up to do a ‘Couch to 5K’ run over nine weeks. Maurice is still getting over the shock death of his beloved wife three years previously at the hands of a drunk driver and hopes that running will help his mood and his waistline. He worries about his daughter, whom he barely sees anymore, and has concerns that she might be in an abusive relationship. Brendan and Angela are getting into shape in advance of their wedding. Angela’s wealthy family have taken over the planning and Brendan feels it is all getting out of control, but just wants to make his fiancée happy.

Cathy, a librarian, recently had a cancer scare, and in the words of her beloved Dickens, feels ‘recalled to life’ and wants to get healthier. Yana is a refugee from Syria, who is trying to settle in a new city with her family and is running to escape the pain of her elder brother’s death and the ‘sharp edged thoughts that plague me’.

None of us ever knows what secrets lie beneath the surface of other people’s lives…

Each of Park’s well-drawn characters has taken up running for a different reason, but most are racing towards or from something that they cannot quite deal with. Park is skilled at capturing voice and even though these chapters are slight, he manages to create fully formed characters, who, you feel, could each have their own book. His depiction of loneliness is sharp, but he balances this with light humour and a lovely sense of the growing community and friendship between the runners. Yana’s story, in particular, could have been heavy-handed, but Park writes with grace and intelligence and manages to convey a lot in just a few lines.

As the stories progress and we learn more about these people, Park slowly brings his group together in an emotional and wholly believable finale. The humanity of his writing shines through and his characters are all ‘recalled to life’. That he does this without falling into sentimentality is testament to his skill.

This gentle short collection can be read in an afternoon, and you can read an excerpt on Bloomsbury’s website here.


Ireland Month Irish Literature Northern Exposure

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

16 Comments Leave a comment

  1. This is a nice reminder to read more David Park. The two novels I have read were brilliant and I still think of the characters in those books years after reading them. Happily, I can see this one has been published in Australia in hardback, which is a real treat because most books here are issued as large format paperbacks. Think I might have to place an order!


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