I had never read anything by Ann Patchett before, but I’d heard a lot about her. When I saw the offer on Book Club Girl for a copy and to participate in a discussion this Wednesday with Ann, I was extremely excited, and I eagerly signed up. I am certainly happy about that!
The book opens with a chapter about the family’s origins. We quickly learn that Doyle and Bernadette only have one natural son and, since she wants more children, they have adopted two little black boys, quite at odds in appearance from them. Bernadette passes away in the first few pages of the book and Doyle and the boys, Tip and Teddy, are arguing after a Jesse Jackson speech when a car comes out of nowhere, causing an accident that does more to their family than just sprain Tip’s ankle.
There is so much to this book, it’s hard to know where to start. It has so many reflections, not just on the Doyle family, but on politics, on poverty, on loss, on living in the spotlight. The characters are wonderful; they have their flaws and they feel human. Kenya was my favorite, though. She’s confused, determined, and so very lost at the beginning of the book. It’s fascinating to see her worm her way into everyone’s hearts without even being aware that she’s doing it, like she just belongs there.
At the end of the book, there’s an interview with Ann Patchett where she says that the book is really, in her mind, about politics. I hadn’t thought that until I saw her response, but it clicked in my head. Not only is it about governmental politics, as in Doyle’s status as former mayor that affects the whole family in both small and large ways, but family politics, how they all fit together and who decides where the family is heading. We can clearly see the gap between rich and poor and how interchangeable those states of being are, which is an incredibly important message that Patchett gets across beautifully. Not to mention the dual meaning of the title; running as in Kenya’s skill, or running away, or as in running for an elected office. Very, very clever.
What a piece of literature this is; as I’ve said before with other books, I can see the paper topics scrolling through in my mind now. I can also say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book as I was reading and even if I didn’t have former English major auto-analyze built in, I would have loved it anyway. I’m very excited to read Bel Canto by this author now; I’ve got it sitting in my TBR pile waiting. In the meantime, I’ll be recommending Run, which you can check out on Amazon.