Tuesday, May 22, 2012

book review: Run by Ann Patchett

The backstory: After loving State of Wonder (my review), I set out to read all of Ann Patchett's books.

The basics: Run is the story of the Doyle family: Bernard, an Irish Catholic ex-mayor of Boston, his deceased wife Bernadette, their adult son Sullivan, and their two adopted college ages sons, Tip and Teddy, who are biological brothers.

My thoughts: I'm beginning to think Ann Patchett is my soul sister. Her writing reaches me deeply, and I've adored everything she's written. It was a special treat to read Run, the novel of hers I knew the least about going in. Although I had the framework of two of her novels and one memoir, I didn't know what to expect. Run isn't as universally loved as some of her other works, so I was particularly curious to see how it measured up.

Admittedly, Run started off slowly for me. It took two chapters to really get into the heart of the story, but once it happened, I was hooked. One of the things I love most about Patchett's writing are her characters. They are real people with real flaws. Extraordinary situations cause them to act in sometimes surprising ways, which make me ponder how actions vary in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. Ann Patchett writes about these extraordinary days of life, and Run, mostly takes place in a single day. There are days that change our lives, and the day in Run was certainly one of those days for every single character.

While this review shares very little of the actual story, I truly believe it's best experienced without detail. Know this: Run is extraordinary.

Favorite passage:  "In suggesting that there may be nothing ahead of them, he in no way meant to diminish the future; instead, Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of the divine. It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself. God may have been the baseball games, the beautiful cigarette he smoked alone after checking to see that all the bats had been put back behind the closet door. God could have been the masses in which he told people how best to prepare for the glorious life everlasting, the one they couldn’t see as opposed to the one they were living at that exact moment in the pews of the church hall, washed over in the stained glass light. How wrongheaded it seemed now to think that the thrill of heartbeat and breath were just a stepping stone to something greater. What could be greater than the armchair, the window, the snow? Life itself had been holy."

The verdict: I adored Run. It ambitiously tackles themes of politics, religion and family in large and small ways. The characters are as strong as the writing, and I was sad when I finished this novel and had to leave them behind. Ultimately, I liked it even more than I liked Bel Canto (my review).

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: September 25, 2007
Source: purchased for my Kindle

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Run from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

24 comments:

  1. I read part of this book at a book fair that I was attending, and meant to bring it home with me, though that didn't happen. I need to see if I can get an audio version of it soon. It does sound excellent, and after reading your thoughts, I think I should continue onward with it. Great review today, Carrie!

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    1. I think this one would work well on audio too--as long as you can get past the first chapter without being confused!

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  2. I love Patchett's work. She's one of those authors that I ration her books. I don't want to run out, so I only read one new one each year. Bel Canto is still my favorite, but I loved this one! I still think about the characters and their very different personalities and interests sometimes.

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    1. I'm taking the gluttonous approach and reading one a month, and that feels like a ration. She's definitely a top 5 favorite author for me. I liked this one more than Bel Canto, but a little less than State of Wonder. I can't wait to see what the first three hold!

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  3. Ann Patchett is one of my sister's favorite authors. I've never read her, though I have several of her books on my shelves. I think my first one by her will be Bel Canto- eventually! I am glad that she writes so evocatively.

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    1. Bel Canto is so good. She combines plot and quality writing in a way few do. I hope you make time for her soon!

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  4. I've had Run sitting on my shelf for ages. Your review has convinced me to dust it off and give it a shot soon!

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    1. Jenna--I hope you love it as much as I did! I adore Ann Patchett and could re-read her books for years.

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  5. I read this one so long ago but remember not liking it. I just went back to see if I posted a review for it and I did. I was thinking I read this long before the blog, but here it is if you'd like to take a peek.

    http://bookchatter.net/2008/09/27/run-by-ann-patchett/

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    1. Isn't it fun to discover something you read and barely remember has been reviewed on your blog? After five years of blogging, it's happening more and more!

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  6. I loved this one as well. I'm not sure if I liked it better than Bel Canto...this probably requires me to re-read both of them, for the sake of a fair decision of course.

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    1. They're both five star reads for me, so it's a bit of splitting hairs!

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  7. I read this one a few years ago and have to admit it wasn't a favorite. It was just ok for me. It had all the elements of what I generally like in a book, plus it had some themes close to my heart (adoption, for instance, and also running) but ultimately it just really didn't do it for me. I'm not even sure why because it's been too long. I didn't like Bel Canto either, so there ya go, ha ha. To each his (her!) own.

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    1. Although all of Patchett's novels are different, I think there's definitely something that ties them together. For me, it clearly works. But for you, it clearly doesn't. To each her own indeed!

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  8. Wow, better than Bel Canto! I actually read this back in 08 but I don't remember it AT ALL!!

    I love that she's your soul sister. =)

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    1. Isn't it wonderful to find an author who speaks to you so deeply?

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  9. So glad that you enjoy Patchett! I loved Bel Canto, liked State of Wonder, and Run is next on my list of her books to read. I agree with you that her characters are her main strength!

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    1. Aths, I'll be curious to hear how you rate Run. It seems to be as divisive as State of Wonder! I'm looking forward to reading her other three novels in the coming months too!

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  10. I've started this one a couple of times, and through no fault of the book, I've laid it aside. I will read it, probably sooner than later, especially with your endorsement, Carrie. I'm glad you liked it. Looking back on the one novel of hers I've read (State of Wonder), I'm excited to move forward with her work. While I had issues with it when I finished, overall, the fondness for it has remained. Good stuff.

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    1. Andi, I initially had trouble getting into this one. The first chapter and second chapter were both a little baffling. Once the third chapter came, however, I was hooked, and I ended up appreciating the first two chapters for setting the stage so beautifully, even though I didn't appreciate them at the time. I hope you'll stick with this one eventually!

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  11. Better than Bel Canto! Awesome. I loved Bel Canto and State of Wonder so I'm sure I'll feel the same about this one. Can't wait to get to it!

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    1. Heather, I'll look forward to your thoughts! I'm beginning to think I'm the only one who likes State of Wonder more than Bel Canto (I do love them both!)

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  12. A rare parting of the ways between you and me on this one... I ADORED Bel Canto, and was terribly disappointed by this one. Couldn't get past what I thought were cliched characters and an unrealistic story.

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    1. Gayle, I think there's sometimes a fine line between cliched and true, and I kept imagining these characters as actual people because Bernard was so much like someone I know. I'm also curious if readers like the Patchett they read first best. State of Wonder was my introduction to her, and it's remained my favorite.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!