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.