Run begins with the story of Bernadette’s statue, an heirloom especially treasured by the women in her family. The statue is of Mary, Mother of God, and looks remarkably like the women in the family. The daughter who looks the most like the statue inherits it, and the others bitterly wish it were theirs. Now that she has died, with three sons and no daughters, her sisters show up, demanding that her husband give it to them. We hear the history of the statue, which is sweet and sad and full of lies.
Bernadette and her husband Bernard had three sons. They both wanted large families, and though they had one son, Sullivan, they wanted more. When they were unable to have any more children naturally, they turned to adoption, eventually adopting an infant and his toddler brother, Tip and Teddy. A few years later, Bernadette dies, leaving her husband, her young sons, and her statue behind.
Our story occurs over two or three days when the boys are in their twenties. Sullivan carries a burden of guilt for an accident in which he was driving, one which resulted in the death of his girlfriend, and the end of his father’s political career. He tries to make up for it by traveling around the world, bringing relief to children in impoverished parts of Africa. Tip is a scientist, interested in the study of fish (ichthyology), shunning most human contact whenever he can. Teddy is a lover of ideas, and is leaning toward becoming a priest like his uncle. Their father, Bernard, is the former Mayor of Boston, and wishes to instill his love of politics in his sons. None of them are the least bit interested.
Sullivan is away in Africa, but Bernard brings Tip and Teddy to see Jessie Jackson give a speech one snowy night. They are invited to attend a party after the speech, and Bernard very much wants the boys to attend, while they are hoping to get to the lab/seminary hospital respectively. Tip and his father are arguing about whether Tip will attend, outside in the midst of a very heavy snow storm, and he steps back into the street, in the way of an oncoming SUV. A nearby woman jumps in to push Tip out of the way, being struck by the SUV herself, and is severely injured. Tip’s ankle is injured as well. The woman’s 12 year old daughter, Kenya, is also in attendance. At this point, the fates of this small group are intertwined, and become more and more so as time goes by. Did I mention that Bernard, Sullivan, and Bernadette are all Irish/white, and Tip, Teddy, the woman and her daughter are all African American?
As the relationships and hopes of the characters twist and turn and intermingle, we are drawn further into the story. I really enjoyed this book, with its themes of family, identity, race, class, belonging, hope, parenthood, and love. The characters all came out both better and worse for having met that one fateful night, with one grim exception. I haven’t decided yet if I liked this book as much as I liked Bel Canto…it was a bit more formulaic. But what it lost in points for that, I think it picked up again in honesty, and in heart.
I’ve slacked off on this, I know. Being sick meant not doing much, which is hard to admit to the internets. “What are you planning on doing today?” “Work, cook, cough, sneeze”. Boring. BUT, today, in addition to work, cough, cook, walk dog, is “A Charlie Brown Thanksiving” on TV. YAY!