Haul in the Family
By running around town, a Boston clan discovers its roots.
Book Run By Ann Patchett (HarperCollins, 304 pages, $25.95) Bestselling author Patchett has always placed powerful characters against unusual backdrops, like the South American embassy in Bel Canto. But for her fifth novel, Run, a meditation on family, race, and religion, she’s picked a decidedly less exotic setting: modern-day Greater Boston (a place, as it happens, aggressively shaped by those very forces). Run follows the not-so-subtly-named Tip and Teddy Doyle—adopted sons of a former Boston mayor—whose lives are altered one snowy night when a strange woman pushes Tip out of the path of an oncoming SUV. The stranger ends up in the hospital, her young daughter lands in the Doyles’ care, and all of them, over 24 hours, discover an interconnection that makes them reconsider the meaning of family. Patchett is meticulously accurate in her descriptions of the city (except for how it recovers from a snowstorm, which happens far faster in Run than in real life), but doesn’t spend much time contemplating it. Instead, she focuses on the characters’ emotional journeys—a mother reviews her choices, a politician rethinks his ambition, a child questions her loyalties—which are the book’s real highlights.