I am going to brag for a bit. I got to meet author Ann Patchett this year. She was on a book tour for Small Wonder and talked to the riveted audience, myself included, for over an hour and then talked to us individually. I was mesmerized. I swooned. It was a pretty big deal.

She was so cool—like rock star cool. She talked about her love of books and writing. She talked about writing as a labor of love and time and you aren’t ever quite sure how it will be perceived. It’s clear she’s a lover of storytelling and the written word. So much so, that her gift back to her community was the establishment of Parnassus Books in Nashville, “An Independent Bookstore for Independent People”. She also talked about the honor she received being named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2012 – not for her writing accomplishments which are many – but for opening a brick and mortar bookstore in what others have called the age of Amazon and the death of books and reading as we know it.

Books aren’t going away. Don’t let ‘they’ and ‘them’ fool you. There are too many good stories to tell, and thankfully, we have artful tellers like Patchett to share them in a great book like Run.

Run spans just 24 fateful hours in the life of former Boston Mayor and widower Bernard Doyle, a white Irish Catholic and his two adopted black sons Tip and Teddy. Bernard has failed in his relationship with his biological son, Sullivan, and feels his only chance at redemption is with the Tip and Teddy. The elder, sensitive Teddy, dreams of a life in theology and the academically minded and Thoreau-inspired Tip wants to study Ichthyology (fish). Despite these dreams, Bernard remains hopeful he can steer one of them into a life of public service by regularly exposing them to life in politics. This night, it is to hear Jesse Jackson speak at Harvard. This is the night their lives will be forever changed.

The night is cold and blustery, one of the snowiest nights on record, which could explain Tip not seeing the car coming; but single mother Tennessee Moser did. Leaving her 11-year old daughter Kenya on the sidewalk, Tennessee pushes Tip out of harm’s way (save a broken ankle), leaving herself the victim of a head-on collision.

And here’s where the story takes off running, if you will. Who is this woman? Will she survive? Why did she risk her own life for that of a stranger? What is Bernard to do with this 11-year old girl while ensuring Tip is okay? What are they to do with this 11-year old girl whose only family is the woman now lying in a hospital bed awaiting surgery?

Run challenges the reader with important issues like race, class, family and our often inherent assumptions about them. Is family a construct of blood relation, shared skin color, like beliefs and the four walls that surround us? Does it extend further to include those we allow in? What lengths will we go to in protecting our family—even those whom we love, but don’t like; those we love but don’t know?

Patchett paints a vivid picture of difference between these two seemingly disparate families. The Mosers are poor and living in a small Boston housing project that is forever dark with any views blocked by the next apartment wall. You couldn’t beg the light to come in. Just a few streets over, the Doyle’s home is spacious and open with cathedral-style windows so large the sun pours through the panes in excess.  You couldn’t keep the light out. But for all their differences, they have a number of similarities. Secrets, failures, successes, a desire to be loved and accepted. And at the end of the day, isn’t that true for all of us?

Run may give us more questions than it answers, which makes for great discussion, while leaving us with a desire for more. It helps that the characters are as interesting as the issues. I could keep reading about them and actually hope there’s another chance to do so. In fact, if Patchett returned to the Doyle men and told us more about Sullivan, the son cast aside, I would definitely pick it up. If she took us back in time to Bernard and Bernadette’s courtship, his Mayoral run and the successes and failures that are just a footnote in RUN, I would read that too. If she chose to chronicle Kenya Moser’s likely rise to meteoric running fame, and her own family challenges as further secrets are revealed, I am certain I would read that too.

The truth is I would read anything by Patchett. It doesn’t hurt that when it was my turn to get my books signed and I told her that I loved her, she told me she loved me too. It doesn’t hurt that she hated the same critically acclaimed book that I loathed (and no, I will never tell which one). It doesn’t hurt that she takes her craft seriously and never sells a book before she’s written it. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s just a damn good writer.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction