Thursday, October 16, 2008

Run, by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett has a distinctive style of writing and a distinctive approach to her stories, if my reading of just two is an indication.

Like Bel Campo, Run is written cleanly, at a slight distance, simply. The narrator does not get in the way yet there is a kind of warmth to it.

At the end of this book is a conversation with Patchett, in which she says she likes to explore what happens when strangers meet. Clearly she means when they meet in circumstances that demand that they develop some kind of relationship with each other, unusual circumstances.

The circumstances in this case are that two young men, accompanying their adoptive father to yet another political lecture, meet their real mother literally by accident. The accident sends one of the young men, Tip, along with his mother, Tennessee, to the hospital. Tip is easily patched up but returns home on crutches. Tennessee has suffered greater damage. Because Tennessee has to remain in the hospital Tip's family takes her young daughter Kenya home with them.

Kenya loves to run. She aches to run, cannot go a day without a run. So while waiting for her mother to come out of surgery she accompanies Tip to his lab and then to an indoor running track. This time together forms a bond between the two. Kenya's running also helps her manage her day to day challenges.

But the story is more than a simple bonding story. It explores Tip's two brothers - one not adopted - and his father, and it looks into how Tennessee happened to be on that same street at the same time. It asks us how much blood matters. And it is no fairy story, despite the gentle telling.

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