Friday, July 31, 2009

The Meltingpot Book Review -- Run by Ann Patchett

Here's a book that I might have never picked up if a good friend hadn't suggested it. In fact, even after reading the flap copy I really didn't want to read it at all as it sounded like a book about an old White politician in Boston and his attempts at keeping his family together no matter what the cost. Not exactly the Meltingpot's cup of tea. And even the cover left me limp, with its sterile white writing and nebulous blue background.

But boy was I wrong. About everything. Even the cover. In Run, Ann Patchett, the award-winning author of Bel Canto, has crafted a marvelous novel about an interracial family formed through adoption that is neither about race nor adoption but still gets at the nuances of these very complicated subjects.

The main characters, Tip and Teddy, are African-American brothers adopted as infants by a traditional, well-to-do Irish Catholic family in Boston. The story really begins when the boys are college students, chafing against their father's dreams for them to enter the political arena. Tip wants to be a scientist and Teddy feels called to the priesthood. When a horrible accident happens, everyone has to rethink their own desires.

Patchett is not Black and she hasn't broken any new ground in terms of getting inside the head of an African-American male, but she has crafted an honest and believable story with characters who will seem familiar yet wholly unique. Stereotypes play no part in this book. What's more, Patchett weaves a touch of Irish folklore and a whisper of the supernatural to make the book that much more compelling and will have readers flipping through the pages to find out what happens to this special family.

My only Meltingpot commentary is about the packaging of the book. I wonder how many more people would pick the book up if the cover and/or the flap copy gave some indication as to the multi-cultural nature of the story, i.e. there are Black people involved. Or maybe that was the point. Obscure cover, bland flap copy, best-selling author, her fans will pick it up and that's all we have to worry about.

Why publishing industry? Why? (sigh)

Anyway, despite the whitewashed packaging, I still give it two very big thumbs up and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well-written, contemporary drama that touches on issues of race, class, politics and a hint of mysticism.

Has anyone else read this book or anything else by Ann Patchett? Does she always incorporate race into her novels? What do you think about her work? What other books of hers did you enjoy? Please share.



Anonymous said...

I did not really love Run (read it last year); however, her other work, Bel Canto, is said to be astonishing! Bel Canto is on my 2009 summer-reading list.

Emerson Z. Hamsa

PS: Run did not really fall under the radar; I think most Patchett fans (and there are lots) read Run as soon as it hit the shelves. In fact, I was wait-listed for a library copy. What happened to the adage "don't judge a book by its cover"? I don't share the opinion that Run was improperly packaged at all; it seems to me that we need to love stories enough to look for them anywhere and everwhere.

I am glad you liked Run, and I hope people read your post and read Run! :)

Anonymous said...



LT said...


You said you didn't love Run, I'm wondering what you did think?

And regarding the packaging. I'm prolly just a cynic, but I'd bet lots and lots of money that the marketing folks decided to not mention that there were African-American characters in the flap copy or on the cover images for fear of turning the loyal Patchett fans and others away. It's just an opinion.

That being said, I don't think there's anything wrong with the cover or the flap copy, it just doesn't tell very much what the book is really about. In fact, I believe both the cover and the flap copy make the story sound far more sinister than it really is. Again, just an opinion.

I too am going to read Bel Canto when I get back to the States! Let's see if we agree on that one:)

Olivia said...

I pretty much love everything by Ann Patchett (including Run), but in particular Bel Canto (already mentioned) as well as her first novel The Patron Saint of Liars and her memoir Truth and Beauty (which anyone interested in female friendship should read).
For some reason the packaging is never all that great (except for maybe Truth and Beauty), but that has never stopped me and I'm glad you overcame it too.

Andrea said...

HI, Lori:
I was drawn to Run because of its treatment of adoption (see my blog posting about it at I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was about interracial adoption, and that it paralleled my husbands' family--white family who adopted two black sons.
The Patron Saint of Liars is also about adoption.

LT said...

Interesting about the packaging. Wonder what that's about?

Hi! I'll def. check out your post. I'm interested to see what you have to say about it. And now I'll add Patron Saint of Liars to my list. Any reason why Ann Patchett likes to tell adoption stories?