Run: A Novel

By Ann Patchett
Publisher:Harper Perennial, (8/1/2008)

Average Rating:
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3.00 out of 5 (2 Clubie's ratings)

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Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard cares about is his ability to keep his children—all his children—safe.
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E's Reads's thoughts on "Run: A Novel"
updated on:1/20/2010

Really didn't care much for this.. too simple and I didn't care about any of the characters. Just gave it a higher mark b/c it is Ann Patchett. 11/09

Mildly Unleashable

Jessica's thoughts on "Run: A Novel"
updated on:3/9/2009

Very Unleashable

"Run: A Novel"
By Ann Patchett

Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.00 out of 5 (2 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

1. How would you characterize Teddy and Tip's relationship as siblings? How does it compare to their relationship with their brother, Sullivan?

2. At the Jesse Jackson lecture, Doyle reviews the personalities of his three sons and thinks about which of them would be most able to lead. Which of the boys do you think would make the best politician? Do you think Doyle's assessments of their characters are accurate or biased?

3. Discuss the concept of nature versus nurture. Do you think that Sullivan, Tip, and Teddy are who they are, or would they have turned out differently had Bernadette lived? How would those differences manifest themselves?

4. Discuss the different meanings of the title. How many different ways does the word Run work for you?

5. Run includes several incidences of doubling—two brothers who get adopted, two mothers who die, two men named Sullivan, two Tennessee Alice Mosers, two accidents involving hospital stays. What is the effect for you as a reader of seeing similar characters and events repeated over the course of the book? Can you think of any other examples of doubling in literature?

6. Why is Kenya the one subject that Sullivan and his father can agree on? How does her adoption into the family help Teddy and Tip understand Sullivan and what he went through growing up?

7. Towards the end of the story we see images of four mothers (including the Virgin Mary) on Kenya's dresser. What is the author saying about women and mothers to have them all there together?

8. Why does Kenya's mother conceal her true identity from her daughter? Do you think that she imagines the conversation in the hospital with Tennessee Alice Moser after surgery or do you think it really happened?

9. What does Father Sullivan's encounter with Tennessee in the hospital suggest about his ability to heal?

10. Doyle is very invested in politics on both local and national levels, but he falters at the idea of taking home a stray child. What does this book say to you about social responsibility?

11. Of the many characters in Run, which did you feel most connected to on an emotional level? How do you explain that connection?

12. How did you react to Bernard Doyle's decision to bestow the heirloom statue on Kenya, a daughter who has literally shared nothing with his former wife, Bernadette? Do you think he made the same decision his wife would have made?

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From Publishers Weekly
SignatureReviewed by Andrew O'HaganNovelists can no longer take it as an insult when people say their novels are like good television, because the finest American television is better written than most novels. Ann Patchett's new one has the texture, the pace and the fairy tale elegance of a half dozen novels she might have read and loved growing up, but the magic and the finesse of Run is really much closer to that of Six Feet Under or ER or The Sopranos, and that is good news for everybody, not least her readers.Bernadette and Bernard Doyle were a Boston couple who wanted to have a big lively family. They had one boy, Sullivan, and then adopted two black kids, Teddy and Tip. Mr. Doyle is a former mayor of Boston and he continues his interest in politics, hoping his boys will shape up one day for elected office, though none of them seems especially keen. Bernadette dies when the adopted kids are just four, and much of the book offers a placid requiem to her memory in particular and to the force of motherhood in lives generally. An old statue from Bernadette's side of the family seems to convey miracles, and there will be more than one before this gracious book is done. One night, during a heavy snowfall, Teddy and Tip accompany their father to a lecture given by Jessie Jackson at the Kennedy Centre. Tip is preoccupied with studying fish, so he feels more than a little coerced by his father. After the lecture they get into an argument and Tip walks backwards in the road. A car appears out of nowhere and so does a woman called Tennessee, who pushes Tip out of the car's path and is herself struck. Thus, a woman is taken to hospital and her daughter, Kenya, is left in the company of the Doyles. Relationships begin both to emerge and unravel, disclosing secrets, hopes, fears. Run is a novel with timeless concerns at its heart—class and belonging, parenthood and love—and if it wears that heart on its sleeve, then it does so with confidence. And so it should: the book is lovely to read and is satisfyingly bold in its attempt to say something patient and true about family. Patchett knows how to wear big human concerns very lightly, and that is a continuing bonus for those who found a great deal to admire in her previous work, especially the ultra-lauded Bel Canto. Yet one should not mistake that lightness for anything cosmetic: Run is a book that sets out inventively to contend with the temper of our times, and by the end we feel we really know the Doyle family in all its intensity and with all its surprises.Andrew O'Hagan's novel Be Near Me has just been published by Harcourt.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From The Washington Post
Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley

This fifth novel by the author of the much-admired Bel Canto is engaging, surprising, provocative and moving. Its force is diminished somewhat by a couple of extended passages in which Ann Patchett resorts to conversation rather than action to fill in some of her plot's holes, but these are minor annoyances in what is otherwise a thoroughly intelligent book, an intimate domestic drama that nonetheless deals with big issues touching us all: religion, race, class, politics and, above all else, family.

Patchett opens the story with the description of a small statue of ambiguous provenance that has been in the Sullivan/Doyle families for three generations. It is of Mary Queen of Angels, but it bears a striking resemblance to Bernadette Doyle, who died more than a decade ago, leaving a husband (whom Patchett simply calls Doyle throughout) and three sons. The statue is "maybe a foot and a half high, carved from rosewood and painted with such a delicate hand that many generations later her cheeks still bore the high, translucent flush of a girl startled by a compliment." Traditionally the statue has been handed down to a daughter, but since Bernadette left none, its future is in doubt; where it ends up, and how, are the threads along which Patchett has strung her tale.

Doyle and Bernadette had one son, Sullivan, and about a decade later adopted two, Tip and Teddy. The younger boys are African American, now 21 and 20 years old; Sullivan is 33 and, in the years since a terrible auto accident, rarely at home. In the decade and a half since Bernadette's death from cancer, Doyle has been the younger boys' father, mother, teacher and caretaker, and his love for them is almost painfully intense. It is also, as is often true of love, complicated, because Doyle wants nothing so much as for his adopted sons to follow him into his own cherished career of politics. He is a former mayor of Boston, and when Tip, a student at Harvard, develops a passionate interest in fish, Doyle is taken aback:

"He would admit that his [own] youth had been marked by a great interest in marine life, but that it came along with an interest in the Red Sox and Latin, twentieth-century American novels, Schubert, the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church. His plan had been to pass all of those interests and dozens more along to the boys in equal measure in hopes of making them well-rounded, well-educated citizens. He did not mean for any of his sons to become ichthyologists. He had meant for them, at least one of them, to be the president of the United States."

Both boys are appealing and apt, but neither shows much interest in taking up their father's causes. "Tip was smarter and Teddy was sweeter. They had heard it since a time before memory," though it really isn't true because "Teddy wasn't stupid, he just wandered." While Tip "could be pinned into place by an idea," Teddy is haunted by the memory of his lost mother and wants nothing so much as to be told stories about her: "That was how he came to be so close to his great-uncle, Father Sullivan. It turned out that the priest had stories stacked up like dinner napkins. . . . Somewhere along the line Teddy's love for his mother had become his love for Father Sullivan, and his love for Father Sullivan became his love for God."

So one son wants to be an ichthyologist and the other may -- the jury is still out -- want to be a priest. It's hardly what Doyle had bargained for, and he resists it with all his quite considerable might. At the age of 63 he tries "very hard to think of ways to keep ahead of his sons," but it gives much evidence of being a losing cause. These are "the last moments of his ability to exert any sort of parental authority." He has retained an "essential closeness" with the boys not merely because of love but also because this closeness "was born out of their own bad luck." Now, on the brink of adulthood, they remain deeply loyal to him, but they are about to head in their own directions, ones not dictated by Doyle.

Then an accident occurs. Walking with his father after having been dragged to a political speech, Tip suddenly is struck by a passing car. He might well have been killed had not a woman, a stranger, leaped out of the dark and shoved him away. Tip suffers a relatively minor injury, but her condition is more serious. Her name is Tennessee Alice Moser, and she is African American. She is taken to the hospital, leaving her 11-year-old daughter, Kenya, at loose ends. Doyle allows her to spend the night at his house, but he does so reluctantly, because he fears that sheltering someone else's child could lead to unpleasant legal complications.

It leads to complications, all right, but not the ones that Doyle fears. When it becomes clear that Tennessee will be hospitalized for some time, the Doyles find they have little choice except to let Kenya stay on with them in their comfortable house in a part of Boston where gentrification is still a sometime thing. It turns out that Tennessee's tidy but very modest apartment is barely a stone's throw away: "That was Boston: on one block there were houses so beautiful the mayor himself could be living in one and three blocks away there was a housing project where it maybe wasn't always so nice but it was still a lot nicer than some other places." The project is called Cathedral:

"The sprawl of mustardy-yellow brick buildings turned into something of a maze and no good ever came of mazes, but there was a playground that kids actually used. Because it sat hip to hip against a better neighborhood, it was patrolled with greater regularity. The police pushed down hard on the nefarious elements and in doing so managed to hassle most of the decent citizens as well, so the crime rates stayed down and for the most part no one was happy. Boston Medical Center was only blocks away. There was a woman's shelter, a food pantry, plenty of resources and yet every one of them was stretched thin enough to snap. If Doyle could have been the mayor again he liked to think there were some things he would do differently."

Doyle is a believer in politics. He thinks that "it's something that a person has to do," and he would agree with another character who believes that "there were some people who had the ability to tell other people what was worth wanting, could tell them in a way that was so powerful that the people who heard them suddenly had their eyes opened to what had been withheld from them all along." He feels responsible for the difference between the lives of the people living in Cathedral and those living in more prosperous neighborhoods, though history makes plain that there's only so much that he -- or anyone else in public office -- can do about it.

In the end, though, more than anything else Run is about family, and the infinitely surprising ways in which families can intersect with each other. Patchett has populated the novel with an uncommonly interesting and attractive group of people: Doyle, at once sentimental and tough, generous and willful; Tip, purposeful and uncompromising; Teddy, warm-hearted and kind. I found myself especially drawn to Kenya, a preternaturally gifted runner blessed with "strength, grace, concentration," and to Sullivan, irreverent and idiosyncratic, the prodigal son who reappears unexpectedly and, despite his father's suspicions and doubts, provides his own kind of strength in a time of change and uncertainty.

To the novel's many strengths, one last must be noted. 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. Certainly it felt that way to me as I quite reluctantly reached the final page.

Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine
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.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* The question of what makes a family is central to this luminous novel, Patchett's first since her award-winning Bel Canto (2001). Boston lawyer and ex-politician Bernard Doyle has nurtured his three sons—Sullivan, 33, and African American Tip, 21, and Teddy, 20, brothers adopted 20 years earlier—since the death of his beloved wife, Bernadette, some 15 years ago. Then, one snowy evening, Tip, inattentive and annoyed at his father, is pushed out of the way of an oncoming vehicle by a woman, herself hit and badly injured, who turns out to be the boys' birth mother and who's been watching the boys for years, along with her 11-year-old daughter, Kenya. The drama of a single day is given an unreal quality by the snow that curtails normal activity, as these vividly portrayed characters struggle with their circumstances: Sullivan, the prodigal whose mistake his father lied about; smart Tip; sweet Teddy; speedy runner Kenya; and her mother, Tennessee, whose dreamlike sequence in her hospital room reveals another twist in the family muddle. In extraordinarily fluid prose, Patchett unfolds this story to its epiloguelike final chapter as she illuminates issues of race, religion, duty, and desire. Leber, Michele --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

"Ann Patchett can be counted on to deliver novels rich in imaginative bravado and psychological nuance." -- Publishers Weekly

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About the Author

Ann Patchett is the author of five novels, including Bel Canto (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize), and the bestselling nonfiction book, Truth & Beauty. She has written for The Atlantic, Harper's, Gourmet, the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and the Washington Post. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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