Synopses & Reviews
It is just a few weeks after Christmas, and the unforgiving New England weather has taken a turn for the worse. Doyle has dragged his reluctant sons, Tip and Teddy, to a speech by Jesse Jackson. Though his own political career is over, dealt a fatal blow by a family scandal, Doyle is still fired by Jackson’s rhetoric and perplexed by his sons’ indifference.
The two boys, both adopted, are close enough in age to be taken for twins, but in character they couldn’t be more different. Teddy, open, affectionate, the gentle dreamer, thinks he has found his calling in the Catholic Church. The elder by a year, Tip is more serious, reserving his own passionate interest for ichthyology: he is happiest alone in the warmth of his lab, labelling and categorising fish specimens.
When they are involved in a violent accident on a treacherously icy road, the Doyles are forced for the first time to confront certain truths: about how the death of Bernadette, Doyle’s beloved wife, has affected the family, and about the anonymous figure, never discussed, who is the boys’ real mother.
Full of warmth and humanity and singing, graceful prose, Run is a moving story about our fragile hopes and fears for our children and the lengths we will go to to protect our families. It is a stunning new novel from the prizewinning author of Bel Canto.
"[L]uminous....In extraordinarily fluid prose, Patchett unfolds this story to its epiloguelike final chapter as she illuminates issues of race, religion, duty, and desire." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Patchett's efforts to depict the triumph of family in a dysfunctional world carry all the emotional heft of a Lifetime TV movie. This is fiction for people who live with their blinders on." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"What felt effortless in Bel Canto...is schematic and all too precious in Run....It's easy to become sarcastic about Run, which is a shame, because it's filled with lovely intentions and a few truly moving passages." USA Today
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. How would you characterize Teddy and Tip's relationship as siblings? How does it compare to their relationship with their brother, Sullivan?
2. At the Jesse Jackson lecture, Doyle reviews the personalities of his three sons and thinks about which of them would be most able to lead. Which of the boys do you think would make the best politician? Do you think Doyle's assessments of their characters are accurate or biased?
3. Discuss the concept of nature versus nurture. Do you think that Sullivan, Tip, and Teddy are who they are, or would they have turned out differently had Bernadette lived? How would those differences manifest themselves?
4. Discuss the different meanings of the title. How many different ways does the word Run work for you?
5. Run includes several incidences of doubling—two brothers who get adopted, two mothers who die, two men named Sullivan, two Tennessee Alice Mosers, two accidents involving hospital stays. What is the effect for you as a reader of seeing similar characters and events repeated over the course of the book? Can you think of any other examples of doubling in literature?
6. Why is Kenya the one subject that Sullivan and his father can agree on? How does her adoption into the family help Teddy and Tip understand Sullivan and what he went through growing up?
7. Towards the end of the story we see images of four mothers (including the Virgin Mary) on Kenya's dresser. What is the author saying about women and mothers to have them all there together?
8. Why does Kenya's mother conceal her true identity from her daughter? Do you think that she imagines the conversation in the hospital with Tennessee Alice Moser after surgery or do you think it really happened?
9. What does Father Sullivan's encounter with Tennessee in the hospital suggest about his ability to heal?
10. Doyle is very invested in politics on both local and national levels, but he falters at the idea of taking home a stray child. What does this book say to you about social responsibility?
11. Of the many characters in Run, which did you feel most connected to on an emotional level? How do you explain that connection?
12. How did you react to Bernard Doyle's decision to bestow the heirloom statue on Kenya, a daughter who has literally shared nothing with his former wife, Bernadette? Do you think he made the same decision his wife would have made?