Run: a book recommendation

30 Jan

Thanks to my friend HN for recommending and loaning Run by Ann Patchett to me.

It’s an easy, compelling read, carrying you along on a current of solid storytelling, with ample moments for lazy eddying:

Patchett describes one of the protagonists in his childhood as “the kind of kid who could hang from your neck and still maintain a critical distance.” Wow, right?

But I’ll make my case with this passage…

For context, a young, working class girl is waking up after spending the night in the house of a wealthy white family and notices the light:

“She could do nothing but take in the light. It had never occurred to her before that all the places she had slept in her life had been dark, that her own apartment had never seen a minute of this kind of sun. Even in the middle of the day, every corner hung tight to its shadows and spread a dimness over the ceiling and walls. Draw the curtains back as far as they could possibly go and still the light seemed to skim just in front of the window without ever falling inside… [Yet e]very bit of her was straight and strong and beautiful in this light [in this house]. She glowed. She felt it pouring into her and yet she could tell by her skin, which looked so ashy most mornings where she lived, that it was pouring out of her as well. It was just like the leaves they had studied in science class. She was caught in an act of photosynthesis… She wondered if there wasn’t some way that light was divided and somehow, even though it didn’t seem logical, more of it wound up in better neighborhoods.”

I repeat: Wow, right?

Patchett manages to say so much through this adolescent child’s visceral experience (as opposed to a socio-philosophical musings or political perspective) about the difference socioeconomic status makes.

It strikes me that it is logical that more light winds up in the homes of pricier neighborhoods: an acquaintance who is a building contractor described to me a typical call from one of his clients (for whom he built a $50 million home). She was upset about the custom-designed, automatic window opener in her shower not working quite the way she had envisioned.

While this is (I can only assume) an outlier example, it illustrates the design privileges that money can buy: lighter, airier homes in which children can feel both the external, and their internal, glow.

So let me simply say: I am inspired by Patchett’s ability to write artfully, movingly and realistically about social identities and how they really matter to our daily experiences, relationships and potential to thrive. And I recommend the book to you. Let me know what you think.

One Response to “Run: a book recommendation”

  1. Cee January 30, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Hi Alison,

    You might want to read another book by Ann Patchett, Bel Canto. It’s more about different cultural perspectives and is, again, very well written. I listened to it on an audio book where each accent was unique and it was beautiful.

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