Run by Ann Patchett

Seldom has my book club enjoyed a book more.

Run by Ann Patchett takes place in a single, eventful day. It’s a character driven novel, but it’s full of so many plot twists that it becomes very difficult to put down. It’s also very difficult to write about without giving anything away. Be warned.

Run tells the story of the the Doyle family. Bernard Doyle, who becomes mayor and then former mayor of Boston, and his wife Bernadette already have a 12-year-old son, Sullivan, when they adopt a child. Bernadette wants a big family and has tried for years to adopt, so she does not hesitate to accept the baby even though it is black and the Doyles are Irish Catholics. A week later the Doyles are told that the baby’s mother has changed her mind. She will only allow the adoption to go through if the Doyles also adopt the infant’s 14-month old brother as well. Bernadette and Bernard do not hesitate to say yes. Unfortunately, less than five years later, Bernadette falls ill and dies leaving Bernard with one teenage son, Sullivan, and two sons under six, Tip and Teddy, to raise on his own.

Run takes place many years later, when the two biological brothers are grown and in college. One night cold winter night, after a lecture by Jesse Jackson that Bernard dragged Tip and Teddy to, Tip walks into the street in front of an oncoming car. Out of nowhere, a woman rushes at him and shoves him out of the way probably saving his life. Only his ankle is injured, but the woman is struck by the full force of the car. The Doyles find she was with her young daughter, Kenya, who has no one else to look after her. They take Kenya to the hospital and end up bringing her home to stay the night with them.

Over the course of the next day, while the Doyles and Kenya await the outcome of her mother’s surgery, we learn the full history of the Doyle family as well as that of Kenya and her mother. We also learn how the two family’s are connected. To Ms. Patchett’s great credit, this never once feels forced or contrived. It also makes Run something of a page-turner. Just as the reader thinks one thing is true, Ms. Patchett gives another detail that changes everything. (This even happens in the story’s epilogue.) The danger with plots twists and with the big reveal is that some readers won’t buy it, that the author will lose a few members of the audience along the way. This never happened with Run, at least not with the members of my book club. In the end were all left not with a sense of how tragic life can be, but of how wonderful it is.


Since I first ran this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B., back in 2009, Ann Patchett haw written more books, but I’ve not read them. Somehow, after Bel Canto and this one, I had enough. I don’t know why; I loved them both.  Reading this description makes me think I should.  Since I’ve forgotten what the big reveals were in Run, I could even re-read it, I guess.