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3.6 96
by Ann Patchett

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

A snowstorm; a traffic accident; two families come together unexpectedly. From such random conjunctions, Ann Patchett weaves an intricate novel about family, parental love, and loss. The author of Bel Canto has fashioned a fiction that has all the warmth of her memoir Truth and Beauty. A gracefully written book.
Janet Maslin
Run, with a title that suggests many things (including Kenya's athletic prowess and Doyle's political drive), and with a watery looking cover that reflects the whole book's aura of a human aquarium, becomes an elegant melange of family ties. Ms. Patchett gives her readers much to contemplate when genetics, privilege, opportunity and nurture come into play. And to her credit she is neither vague nor reductive about any of these things; she creates a genuinely rich landscape of human possibility…Run…shimmers with its author's rarefied eloquence, and with the deep resonance of her insights.
—The New York Times
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.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

Two families come together in a traffic accident during a snowstorm. Nothing terribly unusual there, except that a woman has purposely thrown herself under a car to protect a stranger. It quickly becomes clear that the families-a poor, single black mother with her 11-year-old daughter and a white, Irish Catholic, former Boston mayor with a biological son and two adopted black college-aged sons whose much-loved wife died over 20 years ago-have a connection. The award-winning Patchett (Bel Canto) here presents an engrossing and enjoyable novel. While there are a few unexpected turns, the reader very quickly figures out where the plot is headed, but that does not detract from the pleasure of reading. The somewhat unusual premise is presented very matter-of-factly; this is not a story about race but about family and the depths of parents' love of their children, whether biological, adopted, given away, or otherwise acquired, and of each other. Recommended for most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/15/07.]
—Sarah Conrad Weisman

Kirkus Reviews
A family-of-man fable that reads a little too pat to ring true. Like the popular previous novel by Patchett (Bel Canto, 2001), this one finds an unexpected incident connecting and affecting a seemingly disparate cast of characters, isolating them within their own microcosm. The setting is Boston-very Catholic, very political, very racially divided-on the snowiest evening in more than two decades, when a large group gathers to hear a speech by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Among them is widower Bernard Doyle, once the city's mayor until a scandal involving his oldest son compromised his career (one of the underdeveloped subplots here). Still a political junkie, Doyle wants his two adopted, college-age African-American sons to express more interest in his passion. Though he'd had high political aspirations for these two-even going so far as to name them Tip and Teddy-both are pursuing different paths. Tip wants to be a scientist studying fish; Teddy hears the call of the priesthood, likely inspired by his adoptive mother's uncle, the elderly Father Sullivan. The priest has reluctantly gained notoriety as a faith healer (another underdeveloped subplot), though he doesn't believe he has extraordinary powers, and his own faith has become shaky. Leaving the Jackson speech, Tip steps amid the swirling snow into the path of an SUV. A woman with her young daughter pushes him out of the way, letting the SUV hit her. Is the woman Tip's real mother? (And Teddy's?) Is the young daughter their sister? Why do she and her mother seem to know so much more about the Doyles than they know about her? What do we make of the statue of the Virgin Mary that looks so much like the only mother Tip and Teddy have known?And what about that significant plot twist revealed in conversation between a dead woman and one who may be dying? By the time the extended family converges on the hospital, it has become plain that neither these people nor this family can ever be the same. Compelling story but thematically heavy-handed.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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A Novel

Chapter One

Bernadette had been dead two weeks when her sisters showed up in Doyle's living room asking for the statue back. They had no legal claim to it, of course, she never would have thought of leaving it to them, but the statue had been in their family for four generations, passing down a maternal line from mother to daughter, and it was their intention to hold with tradition. Bernadette had no daughters. In every generation there had been an uncomfortable moment when the mother had to choose between her children as there was only one statue and these Irish Catholic families were large. The rule in the past had always been to give it to the girl who most resembled the statue, and among Bernadette and her siblings, not that the boys ever had a chance, Bernadette was the clear winner: iron rust hair, dark blue eyes, a long, narrow nose. It was frankly unnerving at times how much the carving looked like Bernadette, as if she had at some point modeled in a blue robe with a halo stuck to the back of her head.

"I can't give it to you," Doyle said. "It's in the little boys' room, on the dresser. Tip and Teddy say a prayer to it at night." He kept his eyes on them steadily. He waited for an apology, some indication of backing down, but instead they just kept staring right at him. He tried again. "They believe it's actually a statue of her."

"But since we have daughters," Serena said, she was the older of the two, "and the statue always passes on to a daughter—" She didn't finish her thought because she felt the point had been made. She meant to handle things gracefully.

Doyle was tired. His griefwas so fresh he hadn't begun to see the worst of it yet. He was still expecting his wife to come down the stairs and ask him if he felt like splitting an orange. "It has in the past but it isn't a law. It can go to a son for one generation and everyone will survive."

They looked at each other. These two women, these aunts, had supported their now dead sister in her limitless quest for children but they knew that Doyle didn't mean for the family's one heirloom to pass to Sullivan, his oldest son. He meant for the statue to go to the other ones, the "little boys" as everyone called them. And why should two adopted sons, two black adopted sons, own the statue that was meant to be passed down from redheaded mother to redheaded daughter?

"Because," Doyle said, "I own it now and so I'm the one who gets to decide. Bernadette's children are as entitled to their family legacy as any other Sullivan cousin." Bernadette had always predicted that without a daughter there was going to be trouble. Two of the boys would have to be hurt someday when it was given to the third. Still, Bernadette had never imagined this.

The aunts did their best to exercise decorum. They loved their sister, they grieved for her, but they weren't about to walk away from that to which they were entitled. Their next stop was to seek the intervention of their uncle. As both a priest and a Sullivan they thought he would see the need to keep the statue in their line, but much to their surprise, Father John Sullivan came down firmly on Doyle's side, chastising his nieces for even suggesting that Teddy and Tip should be forced to give up this likeness of their mother, having just given up Bernadette herself. If he hadn't closed the argument down then, chances are that none of the Sullivans would have ever spoken to any of the Doyles again.

It was a very pretty statue as those things go, 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. Likenesses of the Mother of God abounded in the world and in Boston they were doubled, but everyone who saw this statue agreed that it possessed a certain inestimable loveliness that set it far apart. It was more than just the attention to detail—the tiny stars carved around the base that earth sat on, the gentle drape of her sapphire cloak—it was Mary's youth, how she hovered on the line between mother and child. It was the fact that this particular Mother of God was herself an Irish girl who wore nothing on her head but a thin wooden disc the size of a silver dollar and leafed in gold.

Bernadette's mother had given her the statue for a wedding present, and it wasn't until they were home from their wedding trip to Maine and were putting things away in their overlarge house on Union Park that Doyle really stopped to look at what was now theirs. He got very close to it then and peered at the face for a long time. He reached a conclusion that he thought was original to him. "This thing really looks like you," he said.

"I know," Bernadette said. "That's why I got it."

Doyle had certainly seen the statue in her parents' house, but he had never gone right up to it before. His did not have the kind of faith that believed religious statuary was appropriate for living rooms, and now here it was in his own living room, staring down at them from the mantel. He mentioned this to Bernadette. In that bright empty room there was no place else to rest your eyes. The Virgin looked so much larger, holier, than she had in the clutter of her parents' house.

"You don't think it's a bit overtly Catholic?" her young husband asked.

Bernadette cocked her head and tried to divorce herself from her history. She tried to see it as something new. "It's art," she said. "It's me. Pretend that she's naked."

He looped his arms around this beautiful girl who was his wife. The very word, naked, made him kiss her ear. "So where did it come from?"

Bernadette looked at him now. "My mother never told you this story?"

Doyle shook his head.

Bernadette rolled her dark red hair around one hand and then stuck a pencil from her back pocket through the knot to secure it to her head. "That's because my mother's afraid of you. She's afraid of boring you. She tells this story to everyone."

"I don't know if I should be flattered or offended."

Back then there was only one sofa, one dinged up chair, one round leather ottoman that looked like a button. They left the boxes and sat together on the couch, her legs draped over his. "It's a sad story," she said.

"I'll remember it," he said. "That way you'll only have to tell me once."

The story she knew began in Ireland, where her great-grandfather was a boy full of stories and high expectations. When he was still young he settled those expectations on the lovely shoulders of Doreen Clark, a redheaded girl whose beauty was outmatched only by her piety. Doreen Clark had made it clear that she had no interest in any of the boys who took such a keen interest in her. She was leaning towards the convent as if a strong wind were blowing her there. No boy who tried had been able to distract her from her prayers and good deeds, so despite all his best efforts, the great-grandfather's courting met with no success. Despondent, the boy left his hometown of Easkey and was gone for more than half a year. If Doreen Clark ever noticed his absence she did not mention it once, even to her sisters.

"When he came home again he was seventeen," Bernadette said. "He looked leaner, handsomer than anyone had remembered, and he had a lumpy bundle tied to his back. He said he had traveled all over the world trying to put Doreen out of his mind but the cause was hopeless. No one could forget Doreen. When he was in Rome–"

"He went to Rome?" Doyle said. "At sixteen? What year is this?"

"Listen to the story," she said.

The great-grandfather was quick to point out he had traveled all the way to Rome and sometimes implied he had gone even farther. He met a sculptor there whose job it was to carve saints out of exotic woods for the pleasure of the Pope. On one especially golden Roman afternoon the great-grandfather, sick of his own loneliness, sat down beside the sculptor who was turning a block of rosewood into Saint Francis of Assisi. He told this man, a stranger, the story of Doreen's beauty. There was pleasure in hearing himself say the words. No mention was made of there being any sort of language barrier between them. It was only said that the sculptor was so moved by the descriptions he heard of her slender neck, her delicate ears, the red wings of her eyebrows, that he set Saint Francis aside in order to carve a likeness of Doreen Clark, but the statue, because he didn't want anyone to think he wasn't doing his job, was also a statue of the Virgin. In the end it was this merger of the two women, one an Irish teenager and the other the Mother of God, that made the finished product seem to speak of both heaven and earth. The great-grandfather had no money to pay for the statue ("The suitors are always poor," Bernadette said, and she smiled at Doyle—a promising lawyer, who had not been poor at all) but the sculptor insisted he take it on the one condition that it be carried home and presented to the young woman as a gift. It was clearly implied that the sculptor himself had fallen more than a little bit in love with the face he had made.

To win the heart of a beautiful girl, have her represented in art as someone of even greater beauty. To win the heart of a pious girl, have her be the model for Mary Queen of Angels. Not a chip of paint was knocked from her long blue cloak, not a single fingertip on her graceful hands was missing. The statue possessed a kind of ethereal beauty that poor children in Ireland had never been acquainted with, not even in the church, and so this girl who was scarcely sixteen herself was moved beyond words. She had been good her whole life without any thought of reward and yet a reward had come to her. She could reach out her finger and touch it. Standing at the front door of the bakery in the center of town where the great-grandfather had begged her to meet him for just three minutes, Doreen Clark fell in love with the statue. While he told her his story he batted away a bumblebee with his open palm as it tried to menace Doreen Clark, drawn as they all were to the vague lemon scent of her hair.

Soon thereafter they married. The three of them, boy, girl, and Virgin, set themselves up on the top floor of her parents' humble house and promptly had five children. Every morning the girl, who was now a mother and a wife, knelt to say a prayer to her own likeness and was happy. The boy, who was quite grown by now into a man, had won the only thing he had ever wanted in life and so was happy as well. People came by their little apartment on the pretense of visiting or borrowing some tea or admiring a new baby, but really it was just that they never got tired of seeing Mother Mary as Doreen. The women crossed themselves and said its beauty was exactly like hers, though the ones who were jealous added on the phrase "had been." Exactly like her beauty had been.

Bernadette smiled. "That's what you'll say when I'm old," she said to her husband. "Look at that statue over there. That's what Bernadette used to look like."

Doyle leaned over and kissed the part of his wife's hair. "You'll never be old."

No one implied that Doreen and her husband lived a perfect life. They owed the butcher. Their eldest daughter came into the world with one leg that was shorter than the other and her thump thump thump coming up the stairwell was the sound that broke her mother's heart every day. He drank too much, the great-grandfather, but then so did half the island. These were still lean years a scant generation after the Great Famine, and they would have had no more or less than anyone else they knew but for the statue, which was not only a glorious object but the proof of their love. Love between hardscrabble young married people with five children was a thing in short supply, and so in that sense they were better off than the other hardworking men and their once beautiful wives.

"Then one day something turned inside the Bay of Easkey. Suddenly the sea could not do enough for my great-grandfather. Every fish within twenty miles swam into his net. The more fish he pulled out, the more people lined up to buy them. He made three times as much as he had ever made in a day, and that led to three times as much drinking and the generous buying of drinks, and soon the men were talking about the statue of the Virgin." Bernadette raised her hand and made a slight gesture towards the woman on her mantelpiece to underscore the fact that they were one and the same. "The men were making some mildly scandalous toasts to her beauty and his wife's beauty and my great-grandfather's adventuresome youth. A man called Kilkelly, who was as drunk as the rest of them, leaned himself across the bar and with the drink his friend had paid for in his hand, said, 'Tell the truth for once now. You stole it, didn't you? You walked into a church and took it straight off the altar.'"

Kilkelly would later say he had never in his life had this thought before and that he didn't actually believe it was true. The comment was born in the spirit of a joking sort of cruelty that one has towards a fortunate man. But he did say it, and in all of the merriment and the slamming down of glasses on the bar and the drinking to a sea full of fish, the great-grandfather heard him and the words went through his heart like a spear through the side of Christ.

It happened on a night when he was seventeen years old and far away from Easkey. He was as drunk that night as he had ever been and still been standing, in some town he never bothered to ask the name of, swaying through the streets in a cold fog. He was looking for a dry place to sleep it off and, praise God, the side door to the church was open. A lucky oversight, because those priests kept their property locked up tight from drunks like him. He felt his way along and found a cushion in a pew to put his head on. He went to sleep right there in the first row. When he woke up the light was pouring in through the blue and gold windows, spreading out across the polished floors and the pews and the worn cloth of his own muddy trousers and who did he see in that light but Doreen Clark, the singular dream of his youth right there on the altar smiling down at him. Those were her eyes, those were her little hands, that was her incandescent hair that he had longed to touch every Sunday he had sat behind her in mass since he was a child. This could only mean that God had called on him to go home and win her back. He had to go to Easkey, collect Doreen Clark, and bring her here to see the statue that pointed him to her so directly. But then he closed his eyes and tried to think again. She would never travel to another town in his company if she hadn't even been willing to go down to the harbor with him to watch the fishing boats come in. Logic instructed him to borrow the statue for the week it took to walk it home and back. Surely God made allowances for borrowing in certain severe situations. He took off his jacket and wrapped it gently around the Virgin Mother, whom he was already coming to think of as his little Doreen, then left the church by the same door through which he'd entered. It was an unnervingly simple departure. No one saw him. No one cried out, Thief! Mile after mile he looked over his shoulder waiting to see the hoards of angry Catholics chasing him down for kidnapping, but none of them came. The farther away he got with this pleasant weight in his arms, the more he knew the statue was never going back. He had the entire long walk home to imagine different scenarios for what might have happened. Once, he came upon an abandoned church in a town where every last person had died of a fever and so he picked the Virgin up and carried her away. Once, the church had burned to the ground and he found the statue standing unsinged in the embers, her arms raised to him. He thought of winning it in a game of dice with a priest, or receiving it as a gift for performing some act of heroism as yet unimagined, but then he worried that a better man would show benevolence and decline to take what was offered. On the third day of his trip home he decided it would be better if the statue had come from someplace very far away, someplace holy that would sit above all suspicions, like Rome. He had had the statue made for her. It was not a coincidental likeness but a tribute of his own design. It was then he began to see himself as a great man coming back in glory. As ridiculous as his story was, no one had ever doubted it. His proof was in the irrefutable likeness of Doreen Clark's face, in her iron rust hair. His proof was in the fact that when he finally found his way home and told her the story she'd agreed to marry him.

Every man in the bar saw the truth now, the terrible crumple and blanch of a lie come undone, and the great-grandfather, who was then only twenty-five, turned his back on the crowd and fell on his drink in silence. By the time he had finished, settled the bill and walked home, the news of his crime had swept across the valley like a soaking rain. All the riches the fish had supplied had been consumed by himself and his kind and he had been exposed as a fraud. By the time he walked through the door of his own home, there wasn't a detail of the evening that his wife had not been told.

It was at this point that Bernadette fell quiet. She leaned her head against her husband's shoulder and for awhile they simply waited in the low, gold light of early evening, as if someone else might walk through the front door and finish the story for her. "Well?" Doyle said. He was interested now. He wanted to know.

"Things go downhill from here," Bernadette said. "There's no redemption."

"You only have to tell it once," he said.

Doreen Clark, now Mrs. Billy Lovell, had come to see in one night that her happiness, her marriage, and her children had all been based on thievery and willful deception. The Catholic Church had been robbed and so had she, but there could be no extrication for her now, no returning to her youthful dreams. She lifted the statue of her own likeness into her arms, touching the cheek that had once been her cheek. There was no imagining how empty the apartment would be now. She bagged it gently in one of the wedding pillowcases her mother had tatted with lace, a case she had wrapped in tissue paper and stored in a chest at the foot of her bed without ever once laying her head on it. Then she sent the great-grandfather out of the house and into the horrible darkness. "Take it back," was all she said.

Of course he couldn't take it back, any more than he could take back a leaf in a cluttered autumn forest to the rightful tree from which it fell. Ireland was crowded with pubs and crowded with churches and all he was sure of was that eight years before he had stumbled out of one of them and into the other. He did not know which saint the church was named for. How could he walk to every one of them in the country asking the question door to door, "Have I stolen this from you?" So he walked to no place in particular. He thought about his sins and his intentions, one of which was quite bad and the other of which was pure. He carried the Virgin in his arms like a child and from time to time he would pull the pillowcase back from her beautiful face and weep for the love of his wife. Then he would go home. That was more or less the way it went for the rest of their lives, she turned him out and he came back again. Every time he walked down his own street his children would rush to meet him, their dirty little hands stretching up towards his neck. "Da, did you bring her home?" they'd cry. His wife would let him stay two days or two months or sometimes even two years until she couldn't stand it anymore, living with the burden of their sins. But she was like the children, too, and her heart always stuttered with joy and relief to see the bulky shape inside the pillowcase as her husband started back up the stairs. She would lift the statue from his arms and carry Mary Mother of God back to the dresser, studying the face that had been her face, the serene and tender face that she had outgrown. Had that ever been the color of her hair? Then she would cross herself and say a prayer.

"And she didn't give it back to the church?" Doyle said. "I mean her own church."

"Well," Bernadette said. "It didn't belong to them, not them specifically. And the Lovells were all pretty attached to it. In the end she gave it to my grandmother Loretta, the one with the short leg, and all of her siblings were so furious that Loretta had to pack up the statue and her family and take the boat to Boston."

"It might have been a bit of an overreaction."

She shook her head. "People in my family take this very seriously. When Loretta moved to Florida she gave the statue to my mother, and from there, well . . ." She pointed again.

Doyle kissed her hair. He kissed the narrow path of skin beside her eye. "That isn't such a bad story. There are certainly worse ones out there."

But Bernadette was true to her word and Doyle never heard her tell the statue's full history again. Later on there was a shorter, cheerier version she used for the boys as a bedtime story that did not involve theft, and when a guest would comment on a peculiar likeness between Bernadette and the Virgin in the years that the statue stayed in the living room she never gave out anything more than a slight, flattered smile.

From the moment of their childhood in which Bernadette's sisters figured out who looked like the statue they had sung a never-ending chorus of petulance behind her: Bernadette's the lucky one, so she couldn't help but feel it was true. She had the statue after all, the image of herself and her mother and her mother's mother before her all the way back to Ireland. How many hours had she lain on her stomach staring at those blue robes as a child, touching her finger ever so lightly to the sharp edge of the halo as she prayed for better grades, prayed for better boys, prayed to find money on the sidewalk?

Once she was married, Bernadette managed to give up praying to the statue for years. She sometimes prayed to a vague idea of God, more out of respect to her Uncle Sullivan than anything else. If he thought there was something to faith then there must be something to faith. After their son Sullivan was born and was baptized, the religion of her childhood started to creep back into her daily life, maybe because there was more to pray for, that her boy would stay healthy, that he would be safe. She did not pray for Doyle to be elected to the City Council, though sometimes she prayed unconsciously for the speeches and the fund-raising dinners to come to an end. She did not understand her husband's love of politics but she prayed for him to have what he wanted because she loved him. She prayed for what she wanted as well—the day she would have her own redheaded daughter to pass the statue on to—and then she simply prayed for another child. She prayed for her pregnancy to hold to term and then she prayed for another chance at pregnancy, and then another and another, but the praying didn't get her anywhere. She prayed for the strength and the wisdom to be satisfied by all that she had, a beautiful son, a loving husband. She prayed to accept God's will. She prayed to stop praying, a pastime that never failed to make her feel selfish and childish, but she could not stop. By then Sullivan was twelve years old, independent and wild, and Doyle was starting to talk about running for mayor. They had spent two years on the adoption wait-list, standing in line with everybody else. She did not ask for anything as ridiculous as a redhead or a girl, just a baby. Any baby would be fine. Bernadette's religion was the large, boisterous families she had come from and she believed in them deeply. She had meant to put two beds in every room in the house. She believed that Sullivan needed siblings as badly as she needed more children to love. She waited and looked to her statue, and she prayed.

Happiness compresses time, makes it dense and bright, pocket-sized. Of those four good years between Teddy's arrival and Bernadette's death, Doyle can somehow assemble only about two weeks' worth of memories: Teddy coming to them when he was five days old, and then the agency calling back only a few days later to say that the mother had changed her mind, not that she wanted her baby back but that she had decided her sons should stay together. Would they consider taking his brother in addition, a good boy who was fourteen months? It was exactly the windfall Bernadette had dreamed of, something too good, too rich to even pray for.

Did Doyle want another child? Another two? By the time they arrived he could no longer remember. Early in their marriage he had wanted to fill up the house as much as Bernadette, but in the years those children failed to materialize he ceased to want them for their own sake. In those years all he wanted was for his wife to be happy. So when the little boys arrived he did not think, Finally I have all the children I want, he thought, Now Bernadette can be happy. Seeing Bernadette happy after so many disappointments was Doyle's truest desire, and that was how he came to love the boys themselves. He loved them for the joy they brought Bernadette. For four short years the house was full. The Virgin moved into the little boys' room and watched them from the dresser while they slept. It was in January after the extravagant rush of Christmas that Teddy got a cold. There was nothing unusual about that. Teddy always caught things first. Then Tip's cold leapt into strep throat and Sullivan started to cough. Sullivan got strep throat and then it went to Doyle, and they passed it around like that, one to the other, back and forth, with Bernadette doling out antibiotics and taking temperatures and running herself down, further and further down as she climbed the stairs with Popsicles and bright, shivering bowls of Jell-O. In taking the children to the doctor she never went to see a doctor herself. It was the pediatrician who touched her neck. He reached up from Tip, who was sitting patiently on the table, turning the pages of a picture book, and put his hand on Bernadette's neck without asking her first.

"Do you feel this?" he said, touching the lump that was there.

A Novel
. Copyright © by Ann Patchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. She has won many prizes, including Britain's Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books.

Brief Biography

Nashville, Tennessee
Date of Birth:
December 2, 1963
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles, California
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987

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Run 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of Ann Patchett. I absolutely hold Bel Canto up as one of my favorite books. In that work, she wove together so many characters and such a complex plot that it was breathtaking. I also have read her non-fiction work, Truth and Beauty about her friendship with another writer. That was personal and intense. I thought Run was a light read and an OK story, but not as rich as her other work.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Run has the cold, dark atmosphere of winter in Boston, and as such the setting reminded me of Benjamin Black's Christine Falls. All but one chapter of Run takes place in a short time frame (24 hours), and I would argue, is more successful in creating a tension and bringing it to resolution. The characterizations are interesting: young black men, adopted sons of the former mayor of Boston who is a white man, find their birth mother accidentally. The sons' voices are true to their upbringing. One can completely forget their black skins because their voices and sensibilities are wealthy white. The birth mother is raising a young girl, whose voice also seems unique and true. This group interacts in tentative, revealing ways as tragedy befalls them. Run is an intimate novel resonant with emotional depth. If the novel feels "small" because of the short time frame, it also feels alive and precious, like a jewel in the hand. If one were to turn the story over in one's mind and hold it to the light, it might just refract and split with all the colors of a prism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book on vacation ( it was at the rental we were staying at). I didn't expect to finish it but found myself totally hooked on the story line and characters. It is rare when I find a writer that can grab me from the start. I found myself thinking of the characters long after I had finished the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautiful book! After I read it I gave it to all of my reading friends for Christmas. I am a longtime fan of Ann Patchett. (Bel Canto is gorgeous.) I love that the time frame of Run is 24- hours and yet a rich, wonderful story is told. I would love a book about Sullivan, what an intriguing character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the story is original with a twist or two (and one crucial piece of information that is revealed to the reader, but not to the characters), the writing is simple, prosaic even. Did the same author write both Run and Bel Canto? It hardly seems possible. Yet to its credit the "easy read" of Run makes it accessible to a casual teen reader as well as to adults and offers fodder for many supper conversations--race relations, adoption, father-son/mother-daughter relations, secrets, life choices, career determination, college work, mentoring, sports, and more. Despite the conventionality of the writing style, I recommend it.
NYC-LIReader More than 1 year ago
I've read other books by Ann Patchett but was unprepared for this one. It was very different (and I liked it more) than her others. The story was warm and so touching -- with great character development. I loved everything about it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Patchett interweaves the stories of several intriguing and inviting characters until they encounter each other and interact during one life-changing day. A tour de force of character, plot and meaning. Patchett is a masterful storyteller; you'll find you can't put the book down until you've finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ann Patchett is one of our finer story tellers writing today and certainly her latest novel RUN keeps pace (if not exceeds) with her previous works. Patchett has the uncanny ability to introduce 'facsimiles' of characters in very subtle ways, blending her ingredient characters slowly, revealing their full personalities and places in the storyline so gradually that reading about them resembles meeting new acquaintances at a party - some will fade, others will materialize as leads. In RUN, Patchett addresses mixed race adoption, responses to death, biologic versus adoptive mothers, and family dynamics, all in the course of a twenty-four hour period of time, and in doing so she compresses so much information that reading this fine novel begs for a one sitting time frame to read it from cover to cover. Former Boston Mayor Bernard Doyle and his Irish wife Bernadette had one child - Sullivan - a lad who failed to fulfill his father's expectations of entering the political arena. Sullivan was involved in a tragedy that affected not only Sullivan and his girlfriend, but also fragmented Bernard's career. Unable to have further children, the couple adopted an African American newborn 'Teddy' only to have the child's biologic mother (Tennessee Moser) offer her 14-month-old child 'Tip' to the Doyles - an offer the Doyles happily accepted. Bernadette dies too soon and the two African American brothers are raised by Bernard: Sullivan has fled to Africa to work with AIDS patients as a means to assuage his guilt for the tragedy he caused. The story begins on a wintry night after a Jesse Jackson lecture when Tip is saved from a near tragic SUV collision by a woman who pushes him to safety - that woman being Tennessee who had been to the lecture with her eleven-year-old daughter Kenya. Tennessee is critically injured and Kenya is invited by the Doyles to stay with them while her mother is taken to the hospital: Tip's sole injury from the accident is a damaged ankle. It is the manner in which the discovery of kinship between Kenya and Tennessee and Teddy and Tip that shapes the next day's events. Patchett gradually builds this chocolate and vanilla layered cake to allow us to see how Tennessee has secretly followed her two sons Tip and Teddy and their father, keeping her distance, but never forsaking her love and concern for her own boys. Kenya is taken in by the Doyle men, including the now returned from Africa Sullivan, and the melding of this mixed family faces the challenges of discovering roots, loss of adopted mother and re-entry of biologic mother, and the bonding of true family. If the novel has a disappointing ending (Patchett jumps in time to four years hence that tidies up too many loose ends too quickly), that last chapter's slightly hokey summation is minor when the entire novel is considered. Patchett writes with intelligent style, elegant prose, and timely character development, creating a story that remains with the reader long after the last page. It is a fine book, worthy of the attention it is receiving on the Top 10 Lists. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Run is a very engaging and entertaining read. I found it more compelling a read than Bel Canto, and loved the unusual plot and its turns of events. The title is a good metaphor for many elements of the story, and the inclusion of real time folks in a fictional story make it even more fun to read. Patchett creates a cast of characters you like and want to find happiness and fulfillment. I really liked it and read it quickly which is my late life barometer of a good read. It is a satisfying, neatly wrapped up story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maybe not her best work, which for me is State of Wonder, but I have not been disappointed by writing in the four novels of hers that I've read so far. An interesting look at what it means to be a family thru the eyes of all the family members. Could it have been better? Probably, but it was in no way a badly written story. Ms. Patchett definitely has a way with words and can paint portraits of characters as well as anyone. I think it's worth the time to read, and would recommend it and any of her works. She is my new favorite author.
lauradayton More than 1 year ago
Well written with good plot and good character development.  Plan to read more by this author
abriella More than 1 year ago
Although not as riveting as Ann Patchett's latest book, State of Wonder, Run is engaging and very readable. I cared about the characters and wanted to find out what would happen next. Definitely a possible book for a book club, as there are many themes addressed.
diana45 More than 1 year ago
I began reading this book with high expectations, and I was a little disappointed. It was a nice story, but I didn't feel like I wanted to keep on reading. When I get a book, I want to be exited when I find time to read it. But with this one, I wasn't that thrilled. It's a nice story though.
review4U More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up expecting the literary quality and craftsmanship that I found in Bel Canto. Instead I found a hack job that looked like it had been cranked out to meet a publisher's deadline. Patchett should have thrown it in the wastebasket and started over. I kept reading because I was waiting for the plot to pick up and it never did. The novel is so derivative that the author seems to have delibrately thrown in a little something for everyone. I grew up in Boston and did not even find the setting accurately portrayed or compelling. I have worked in hospitals all my life -- even the medical details were superficial. I loved Bel Canto but I would be reluctant to try another Patchett novel I was so disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my top 10 favorite books. It shows the true meaning of family. The book took me on an entirely different journey than I expected from the first few pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Run by Ann Patchett takes place over a twenty-four hour period. Patchett grabs readers right at the beginning by starting the story at the end of a very important event, Bernadette Doyle's death. With the first line, "Bernadette had been dead two weeks when her sisters showed up in Doyle's living room asking for the statue back." Patchett starts the story right away drawing in readers from the very first sentence. Patchett continues with a story of a statue of the Virgin Mary that has been passed down through Bernadette's family. Each generation, the statue is given to one daughter. Bernadette had been the one in her generation to receive it. Because of Bernadette's untimely death and her failure to produce any daughters, Bernadette's sisters believed they had a right to the statue. Bernard Doyle, the former mayor of Boston, would not have this. He believed that any one of his and Bernadette's children, including two adoptive African American sons, Tip and Teddy, and biological son Sullivan, had just as much the right to the statue as anyone. Patchett uses the story of the statue to set the scene of the book, laying out the specific details and characters necessary for the storyline to come. After the story of the statue, the plot jumps ahead about fifteen years. Every one of the characters in Run is complex with very real emotions. Throughout Patchett's use of third person point of view alternating between characters, readers are able to fully see the extent of each character's personality and emotions. The emotions that Patchett gives her characters are very believable and relatable. Seeing through each of the main character's eyes shows the contrast between the characters; each of the characters is very unique. Teddy is the "friendly", "loving" one of the brothers while Tip is the "smart" one. The third person point-of-view in Run is what allows the story to flow so well. Patchett uses imagery throughout Run to draw readers into the setting of the story. The character's emotions in the story are not the only things felt by readers. It is Patchett's use of imagery that makes Run seem so real, whether it be Tip, when he "closed his eyes and felt the snow melting on his tongue," or "the sound of Sullivan calling their names." Patchett does a great job of combining human emotion and imagery to allow readers to experience the book. The title of Run depicts the many races that take place in the book both metaphorically and literally, whether it be Tip and Teddy racing to meet their father or Doyle's race to keep all of his children safe. This title also refers to the book's fast pace and the little amount of time that the story takes place in. While Run is a fast paced book, the plot never seems rushed. Patchett allows plenty of time for the personalities and relationships of the characters to be known and developed in a very short time. The ties between family are very strong throughout this book. It is within these family ties and that the themes lie. The themes that Patchett is trying to get across become evident as the ties between families are tested and as new ties form. These ties are first tested with an unexpected event during a heavy snow storm. After dragging Teddy and Tip to a political event, Doyle was trying to convince them to come to the reception. Tip, a Harvard student, would rather be at his job as an ichthyolygist's assistant...
Anonymous 4 months ago
Wanders, caught a mouse then continued on.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Go to go res one. This spot isnt very good...
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