"It is love, not reason that is stronger than death."
- Thomas Mann.
Run seems uncomplicated at first glance, the structure deceptively simple. Through gravitational forces that exude from tragedy, Ms. Patchett gathers together within the same sphere the highly incongruent Doyle and Moser families. Socio-economic barriers between the two are thick, binding and one-sided. The space between their homes is within walking distance, but they may as well live on different planets.
Ms. Patchett knows that society has no qualms in accepting an Americanized caste system as a common norm when dealing with the upper echelons of the uber-rich and celebrities. Even the politically correct and socially conscious upper-middle class Doyle family who are filled with moral outrage over poverty tend to ignore or avoid everyday situations that put them in contact with the so-called underprivileged.
The political statements that float on the surface of Run are as obvious as a light-refracting oil slick attached to scummy tide water beating against the Boston shore line. It is clear that Patchett is aware of her political soapbox and the blatant philosophical and religious statements within her novel, and understands that these things alone would never stand up as an entertaining work of fiction. However, combined with a good story, great characters and ethical lessons, she can still say what she wants to say without bogging down the reader.
Run is masterfully written with prose that vibrates like a well-conducted orchestra. The seamless complexity of the novel can only be seen on completion. There is a magical quality to the writing - not a hocus-pocus abracadabra, pull a rabbit out of the hat magic, but a more primal magic that makes one shiver in realization that below the mundane every-day world is a shimmering substrata of unconditional love.
Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles in 1963 and raised in
Nashville. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of
Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 1990, she won a residential fellowship to
the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she
wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars. It was
named a New York Times Notable Book for 1992. This was followed by
Taft in 1994 and The Magician's Assistant in 1997.
Her next novel, Bel Canto, won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in 2002, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named the Book Sense Book of the Year and has sold over a million copies in the United States and has been translated into thirty languages.
In 2004, Patchett published Truth & Beauty, a memoir of her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy. It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly.
She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Karl Van Devender. Her mother is the author Jeanne Ray, a former nurse who published her first book in her 60s, and is now the bestselling novelist of books such as Julie and Romeo, Step-Ball-Change and Eat Cake.
This review was originally published in September 2007, and has been updated for the July 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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