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message 1: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry Let's start discussing this on January 15, 2008.


Beverly Okay, your Martian Mascot is here--to say that I did not like this book and on buying/reading a hard cover book such as this, I was resentful of the monies spent because it's not a keeper. Maybe I should try to sell it on ebay.

This is mostly personal bias, I think. I am an old woman who has read until my eyes required laser surgery to focus again, so in my dotage I have come up with strong tastes. (this is true now of foods as well). I found this book "vanilla" and lacking passion. The Irish Catholic mayor, liberals, Kennedys, even the name "Teddy" thrown in lest we not 'get it.' All (to me) stereotypical.

The author's picture on the book flap is of a young, white woman--very preppy, very 6 Sisters.I had to go look at it after reading a few chapters. Here's a case of why you should write from your own experience. For her to tackle writing about adopted black boys, about racism and poverty was a travesty. There was NO semblance of reality in the characters she drew, and she simply paid lip service to the tenements alongside the hugely affluent neighborhood of the ex-mayor. Yuck, yuck, yuck. If I was black, I'd have thrown this book across the room. That was my reaction.
No depth at all to what an interracial family would really endure. "Perfect" boys, with a "perfect" (but dead) mother. I mean, it just almost smacked of fairy tale writing. Yuck. Flat characters with inner lives that went "this" far and no further.

To be fair, I have to commend her technical skills. The writing is smooth, and I envied her apparent ease with omniscient point of view. I should live so long. And that made it all the more painful for me, because to have this kind of command of language and then use it to write superficial formula novels is a waste.

The funny thing (to me) is that Patchett HAD a good book here and she chose to throw it all into backstory, ignoring the action of Tennessee's "stalking" of her sons, taking the girl child in, and saving her son's life. Here was actual drama, with motivation, action, and emotion--and she tossed it all away to simply 'tell' us about it later. All talk, no action. Boring.

And that hospital scene with the two Tennessees,
(mother of Kenya) and mother of the boys? What was that awful DEVICE? We now pull a ghost into the room to do the job of exposition? Reminded me of the failed ending of The Lovely Bones. That's an out and out device that did NOT belong in this novel...we were not reading magical realism but a piece of mainstream fiction. Like a slap in the face, this was. If the backstory had been her front story, she could have showed us in real time.

I had to make notes when I finished this book, because I would have forgotten every word of it by now. It is not a book that would stick to my ribs. It is not an author I would read again.

I've already gotten the gist that everyone loved this book, which is why I say I'm a Martian. So I'm just giving you my other-worldly opinions. :-0




message 3: by Sherry (last edited Jan 15, 2008 06:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry Bev,

You've really make me think. None of the things that bothered you bothered me. But you do have a lot of good points. I love Patchett's writing. Bel Canto is one of my favorite books, but many of your objections here would probably apply to that book as well. I'm not sure I agree that a person has to have personal knowledge or experience to be able to write about something. I'm sure it helps, but much of imaginative literature would be lost if that were true. I think you're making a bit of a judgment when you look at her picture and see she is young, pretty and white and assume that because she has those attributes, she has no way of knowing how to write about black children or situations.

I've met Patchett and maybe that colors my perception a bit. She was at a book signing in Milwaukee before Bel Canto became a best-seller and there were only seven or eight people there. She was down-to-earth, very smart and kind (and I don't think she's quite as young as that picture makes her looks).

But I really do appreciate your insights.




message 4: by Beverly (last edited Jan 15, 2008 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Beverly Oh, I'm sure you're right, Sherry (about my personal bias on that photograph) but the writing speaks for itself, I think. And her privilege, education, background (as outlined in her bio) would be another indicator to me of just how far removed she might be from the black experience. But the writing itself says it all, I think. But yes, my bad, I'm judgmental, I think, when it comes to trying to figure out WHY a person would do this with a subject alien to her.

And of course, I am not a "best seller" reader which is why I question my appropriateness for this group. I would rather read "Blind" by Saramago, any day of the week -- another flawed novel, but oh! oh! Such a literary adventure--and without personal experience, since it's almost allegory, but staying in the deep waters of reality, careful attention, not flippant or superficial.

But I hear you. And I'm guilty! :-)


Sherry We're not really a best seller group, either, Bev. Our discussion of Blindness was great. And I think that is a much better book, too. But I don't have to chose, do I?


Ruth Stick around, Bev. We do mostly literary novels, and many are not bestsellers. I mostly don't like bestsellers, either.

As for Run, I didn't like it much either. Everything was much too sweet and lovely. Everybody was perfect. The boys loved their adoptive parents and never thought about the possibility that they didn't fit together in most people's eyes. They loved each other. The father loved the kids. Everybody loved everybody. Nobody had problems with adjusting, or problems with the way outsiders saw the family, or problems with anything much for that matter.

Too much cotton candy for me.

R


Robin I liked the book well enough, but I felt like there were a lot of things that just didn't knit together well. There were several story lines, and I'm not sure if they were really cohesive - Father Sullivan and his "magical" powers, the passing of the statue from mother to daughter, this whole story of Kenya being actually unrelated to the boys, the main theme of the boys with their stalker mother - it just seemed rather fragmented to me.


message 8: by Sherry (last edited Jan 15, 2008 08:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry LOTS OF SPOILERS


But, Ruth, don't you think there is room for novels that aren't about dysfunction and strife? I didn't think everyone was portrayed as perfect. The father certainly wasn't, since he kept pushing his views about politics onto his sons who were clearly not interested. And he totally gave up on his biological son. Tennessee obviously wasn't since she was like a stalker. Tip wasn't perfect because he was so focused on his fish and had little time for other things. Sullivan certainly wasn't perfect since he killed someone, although accidentally, and his father paid the price politically.

I think this novel is about love, and the many forms it takes, and about families and the many forms they can take, too. Now if Tennessee had miraculously recovered and married the father, then I think you may have ammunition for your niceness theory.


Ruth Everyone had their quirks, you're right. And not everything has to be about dysfunction and strife. But I wanted this novel more grounded in reality. The problems you mentioned were problems any family could have. But this was an unusual situation--two African American kids raised in an affluent white family in an affluent white neighborhood nudged up against a poverty-ridden black neighborhood. That's a really loaded situation, and one which seemed to have left no stress, or conflicted feelings among the participants or their friends and family. Hard for me to swallow that.


Ricki Thank heavens - I thought I was going to be the only one who didn't really appreciate this book. I thought it was trite. I mean really, she was so using the Irish and politics that she named the boys Sullivan, Tip and Teddy - with Sullivan's accident bringing back the smell of Chappaquidick minus the water. (I must admit most of my Irish Catholic friends tend to name their children either traditional Irish names or saint's names but that is by the by) And that last chapter reminded me of the sweetness and light of the last chapter of the Harry Potter book, the latter I could forgive because it was, after all, written for children, but this one!!!
As for her writing - I thought it was what I would also call a 'smooth read' - nothing trying to test my intellect so I could just meander through it at quite a pace. But the ghost - yes that among other things in this book was contrived - to say the least.



message 11: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane I read this shortly after it came out, and I loved it. I saw a lot of tension in this story. The boys were ready to rebel against their father and Kenya's life was pretty bleak until she met her supposed brothers. It helps that I am a huge fan of Ann Patchett's. When TRUTH AND BEAUTY came out, I read somewhere that Patchett was helping her mother take care of Patchett's ill grandmother. Read TRUTH AND BEAUTY and you will see that her childhood was not one of privilege. She was an amazing friend to her difficult friend, Lucy.

Jane

By the way, Patchett was born in 1963.


message 12: by Felix (last edited Jan 15, 2008 08:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Felix Okay, a statement of from whence I am coming on this book, which I like very much. I am biased, I admit, towards Ann Patchett, all of whose books I have read and enjoyed.

All of Patchett's books, as she has commented often, and have been pointed out by critics, have to do with families, and how they are formed, often from unlikely elements. Bel Canto is one example, relationships formed within the tense and distorting context of terror and hostage taking.

Run is such another, involving the great distortion of our country's legacy, the elephant in our national living room, race, especially as concerns the legacy of black slavery and its consequences. Bev's objections focus on the treatment of the family Doyle, those of the blood, and those of the adopted alien blood, the black brothers, Tip and Teddy.

The criticisms of Patchett, by Bev here and by Leah Hager Cohen in her NYTBR review, and by John Updike in The New Yorker, take the author to task for not focusing primarily on the blackness of the adopted brothers and the incongruities of their background with the privileged family into which they are thrust.

Patchett has chosen, instead, to focus on the facts of family, regardless of genetic composition, as she has in all of her books, from Patron Saint of Liars to this book, including the memoir Truth and Beauty, about the ties she formed with her friend Lucy Grealy.

Life, and love, are examples of the same sort of reaching out from our little caves of bone into other lives that literature serves to illuminate. The politics of race and class should not trump the basic human empathy that is the only armor we have against hate and polemics.

Yes, I have not spoken here of the particulars of the plot and exposition of the book, but following the arguments of the critics mentioned, I am pointing out the flawed premise on which the criticism is based.

I shall gather my wits (weak though they be) and particulars for further discussion.



message 13: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Having been the grinch who didn't like Ordinary People, I started this book expecting to react like Bev. For some reason I can't manage to do it.

I liked the part about Uncle Sullivan saving stories about the boys' mother like a stack of napkins and then unfolding them one at a time. That seemed just right to me. And the statue story was good, and so was the part about the black girl searching for her mother's things in the snow. I must be going soft.

I haven't finished the book yet. Maybe I will come to my senses by the end.


message 14: by Sherry (last edited Jan 16, 2008 05:03AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry Thanks, Felix, for articulating so well what I was feeling and didn't know it. So these boys, Tip and Teddy had a happy childhood. So they were black. So what? Why does everything with a black person in it have to do with racism? Patchett seems trying to reach beyond the givens, and go further into the family dynamics. It may seem like cotton candy to some (yes, Ruth, I'm talkin' about you), but it felt much deeper than that to me. The idea that Kenya wasn't even related to the boys was wonderful. It's the main point of the book, I think.

And for those objecting about the scene in the hospital where we meet the other Tennessee, it didn't feel like magical realism to me. It felt like an injured woman having a drug-induced dream. Tennessee had a hallunication--it just happened to fill in a point plot for us, although it may have been a bit too obvious a method. I think maybe Patchett could have told the readers in a more subtle way about this relationship. But I really didn't mind it in the end.

Jim, you old softy, be sure and come tell us if you come to your senses.



Xysea As anyone can tell from my review, I found this book predictable and lacking the depth of Bel Canto. I had figured out what was going to happen about 70 pages in.

It was clear to me from the first who the woman who got hit was: why she got hit made that clear. There was only one twist, and it wasn't a that much of one - again, predictable.

The only character with any real depth or spirit, to me was Kenya - and we only get to see that at the end of the book.

It didn't bother me, the 'blackness' angle. Cross-racial adoptions happen all the time.

Even the handing over of the statue was predictable, and I'm sure I was supposed to 'learn something from it', because of the story at the beginning of the book. They gave the statue to a woman who wasn't even a biological part of the family, in lieu of the aunts, to make a point. I bet that made the aunts really, really unhappy. But, in the interest of wrapping up the plot, it was, well,
expected.


Beverly well, basic rules of writing...? If you're going to create a black character (or five) and then don't DO anything with/about/because of their color, why make it an interracial adoption at all?

It's not like racism is behind us, folks? If she wanted a book about family, she didn't have to make them ANY color whatsoever.

I stick to my first critique.


Barbara I actually was more involved with this book than I was with Bel Canto. The relationships felt more real to me.

Race did enter into the relationships between the father and sons but in a reverse of what you would expect. The father's political missions made him tilt in favor of the young black sons. He had made his mistakes with his oldest and now he had the chance to fulfill both political and fatherhood goals. In this case, they had none of his genetic material, so they weren't butting heads in the way he did with Sullivan.

I loved Teddy's speeches. In fact, I loved Teddy. It must be the special ed teacher in me. His little obsessive qualities combined with his spaciness were irresistable.

And, I loved the point that Patchett made about the Irish mother (through the father), that she could see a little bit of her sons at all ages when she looked at them in the present. That was an excellent description of what I feel when I look at my sons.
S
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My only major criticism of the novel was the last chapter. I just didn't believe Tip went to med school and that Teddy went to law school. For one thing, I lived with my husband while he went through law school. Teddy would never have made it. I also didn't believe the ending of Bel Canto so Patchett and I may have a division here.

Bev, look over our classics and reading list titles carefully. I can't remember a time when we read only best sellers. There's a great mix. Just pick and choose.

Barb


Sherry I agree with you about the endings of both books, Barb. The ending of Bel Canto seemed kind of forced (even though I still gave it five stars) and I have the same objections about med school and law school that you do. Just doesn't feel right to me, although I really liked the rest of the book.


message 19: by Summer (last edited Jan 16, 2008 08:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Summer I enjoyed Patchett’s style. I thought the prose was descriptive without being distracting. Also, she made excellent use of metaphor throughout the book.

I thought the characters in general were well written. We knew enough about them to get some sense of their motivation but not so much that it felt forced. (I must tell them: date of birth, middle name, and name of first grade teacher.) I would have liked a bit more about Sullivan, but he wasn’t the focus of the plot so I can live with it.

Personally, I don’t think there is one African American or Irish American experience. I know people of various backgrounds who for assorted reasons feel they have more privilege than they ought, and therefore are apt to do what they think others want. I thought Tip and Teddy were of that sort. They didn’t not know they were black. It was not a non-issue. In fact, Tip clearly knew he was black, but he also knew the difference between poor and wealthy. It is equally possible to be motivated by gratitude as it is to be motivated by resentment.

Finally, I felt the statue was a loose end. It saddens me when family heirlooms loose rank and appreciation with successive generations. My grandmother gave me a charm that her maiden aunt gave her. It is a three-birthstone charm and I have no story to go with it. I’ll never know how many generations it was in our family or who’s stones they are. I don’t like dangling stories. The end of this book was a bit dangling for me.


message 20: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth There are certainly families and also cross ethnic adoptions that work out well with love and happiness all around and no serious contention. But a novel is a constructed situation. In this case it's like she laid a fire with all the right tinder, kindling and fuel, got out the match, and then never lit the fire. I'm reminded of was it Chekov? Who said if you have a gun in the drawer in Act I, you'd better have someone use it by Act III.

Come to think of it, I don't think it was Chekov. But it was somebody.


Barbara It's definitely possible to combine races in a family without any more fireworks than Patchett portrays. We had a young black boy who came to live with us when he was 13 and stayed until my husband helped get him into college north of us. We didn't formally adopt him because he still had his family. But, they couldn't afford to keep him, lots and lots of family issues. He basically had 2 families, staying with us full time and visiting them. Our own sons were just being born during that time and now I realize that what little conflict we had was minimal for the adolescent experience. He got self-conscious about being taken in by a white family for a while, the results of a few friends teasing but it was no more than what the boys are aware of in Run. And, most of his friends did fine with us.

I honestly didn't feel any need for any more story line or tension than Patchett gave us. I liked the characters. I liked the subtlety of the plot. I didn't feel the need for any more fireworks. I don't think it's classic literature, but I do think it is very good writing.




message 22: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane I have enjoyed reading all of your comments even though I don't agree with all of them. That is what makes this group so interesting: we are capable of discussing a book in a civilized manner. Anyway, my last post was rather hasty, and I want to say that I really loved this book. When I was reading it, I could hardly wait to get back to it. It was one of those kinds of books to me. I loved all of the characters and I could picture them in my mind. I was just a little taken aback when Bev said "yuck" several times when referring to the book. It is her right to not like the book, but I think I should be allowed to be an Ann Patchett cheerleader!

Jane


Sherry Jim, did you ever finish reading this? I was interested in hearing how you liked it in the end. This book seems to engender a lot of disagreement, but if we all loved the same things, what would there be to talk about?


message 24: by Dora (last edited Jan 24, 2008 04:56AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dora I loved both Run and Bel Canto and plan to read more Patchett soon. I thought Bel Canto required more suspension of disbelief than Run did, but agree that both have rather weak endings.

Patchett writes poetically and creates interesting characters. Her story lines are captivating, too. I'm looking forward to her next book; eventually she'll get her endings right.

I loved Kenya. As much as you read about Tip and Teddy and everyone else, she's the heart of the novel, I think.

And, by the way Ruth, it looks like the quote was from Chekhov. I found it in a couple of places. Looks like it's something like “If a gun is on the table in the first act, it will go off by the third act.” I found references to it here: http://goldhaber.org/blog/2006/12/04/... and here: http://www.gayleenfroese.com/blog/?p=138. I'm sure there are more definitive sources, but these were the easy-to-find ones. They also looked like interesting blogs.

GT


message 25: by Anne (new)

Anne I can't quite put my finger on what I don't like about this book. I have loved and defended all of Patchett's books to date. This one falls short for me. The writing doesn't inspire me in the least, and the story line has not drawn me in. I so wanted to be in love with this book.

I'm almost finished. Once I do finish, perhaps I'll be better able to articulate my disappointment.

Anne


Sherry Well that's too bad, Anne. It's so interesting how people have such different experiences with the same book.


message 27: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim "... in truth he was alone with a great deal of knowledge, knowledge he would put into papers and eventually publish in scientific journals where his family and friends and all the people he hoped would think well of him would never look at it."

"What surprised him was that absolutely nothing had changed from the night before. The people even looked the same. The emergency room was like a casino in that way. It existed in a state of perpetual flourescence that was meant to represent neither day nor night. It was a jar of alcohol solution in which time had been suspended."

That's exactly what it's like to have a lot of abstract knowledge and exactly what it is like to be in an emergency room. As long as Ann Pachett can write things like that, I am willing to give her a free pass on a few too many gimmicks and coincidences. I think Run is a great book.

Far from being ignored, I think the issue of race is addressed fully in the book. It is just not addressed in the way you might expect. Clearly the boys don't have trouble adapting to life in a white home. Their major problem is their separation from poor black society. They are stalked by a black woman for years, and they don't even notice her. As she says elsewhere, the only time she gets attention from whites is when the folks in the department store think she is about to steal something.

Carrying that on, Tennessee forced herself to give up her children to get the advantages of white society for them that they could never have gotten with her. I can hardly think of a more bitter comment on the racial divisions in our country.

Moving beyond the racial issues, I see the book raising some serious questions about what a family means, showing siblings who aren't exactly siblings and parents who aren't exactly parents. I found a lot here to think about. What should someone expect from a mother after the moment of delivery anyhow? How much should they affect your life?

Overall, I think this is worth reading and re-reading.






Sherry Jim, I of course, agree with you. How you phrased it was ever so much more subtle and accurate than I have been able to. Have you read any other of her books?


message 29: by Jim (last edited Jan 28, 2008 06:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Sherry, thank you for the kind, if undeserved, words.

As for Patchett, I haven't read anything else by her, but it sounds as if Bel Canto should go on my list.

I went to the Amazon website for Bel Canto and discovered halfway down the page a podcast by Patchett on Run. She says the book is about Joe Kennedy meeting the Brothers Karamazov.

Here's the link [http://www.amazon.com/Bel-Canto-P-S-A...]


message 30: by Kyle (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kyle 3/4 of my way through. boy, am i every disappointed in the actual craft...the pure writing...of this book so far. a lot of the descriptions seem forced and flat. i don't have the book with me at work today, or i'd give examples (will do that tomorrow, especially after i finish). so far, the most captivating part for me was the hospital scene where sullivan is "confessing". powerful stuff. so many of the situations are so banal, however; and so much of the dialogue stilted (for ex. do any of us really believe an 11 yr old girl says she slept "like the dead." this is trite, misplaced cliche dialogue pure and simple. now, i DO see that ann patchett is dealing with big issues here obliquely, which is probably going to be very interesting the more i think about it. i will reflect more favorably upon this book than enjoy it while i'm in it, i'm afraid. and i also know that, while this is clearly--i think EVERYONE will agree on this--not an example of her best work (i MUST read Bel Canto)--ann patchett is an excellent writer capable of great things. run may just not be one of those things. back tomorrow when i'm done with the book.....


Summer Jim, thank you for singling out those passages. For me, this book contained a wealth of description, but was succinct. Not a single word seemed wasted.

To address your question, Kyle, yes I do believe an 11 yr old girl might say she slept "like the dead." I imagine it is exactly the sort of thing a girl who has had to sit through many speeches might pick up and repeat. Kenya had quite an unusual childhood.


message 32: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane Jim,

You expressed my sentiments perfectly. And I agree with Summer. I can certainly believe that a 11-year-old would say what she had heard from others. On Friday, I was doing volunteer reading to three second grade classes. I asked them to write down what they wanted to be when they grow up. one little boy asked me how you say paleontologist in French (I was reading in French). That little boy heard that term somewhere.

Anyway, it is so interesting that we seem so polarized on this book!

Jane


Ricki Some interesting points there.
Jim,
I suppose what you have said about the boys and their adaptation into white society is one of the bits that don't ring true for me. To paraphrase, they have adapted to white society, though they are black, and they have at the same time been 'stalked' by a black woman whom they have not noticed.
Somewhere there, lies a dichotomy of experience. Perhaps Patchett just avoids it - but to be part of a white society must have at some point brought out the same idea of either not being noticed or being too noticed within the boys. Their home may have prepared them to have confidence and acceptance of themselves but they have also lived within a wider society. I think Patchett avoided rather than added to dialogue on these issues and maybe, and I am just exploring my own thoughts here so please don't expect them to be well-formed, maybe that's one area in which I found her writing somewhat superficial.


message 34: by Jim (last edited Jan 29, 2008 06:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Perhaps the basic problem is that Patchett handles the racial issue with a light hand when we are used to having it thrust into our face.

When the boys consider their birth mother and Kenya, thoughts of racial disparity have to occur to them. They certainly occur to the readers. And it is not as though the boys don't know their black history. All of the speeches that they have memorized seem to be from black leaders like W.E.B. Dubois, Jesse Jackson, and Dr. King.

In my view, Patchett didn't so much avoid dialogue as recognize that there was no point in saying the obvious.







message 35: by Kyle (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kyle just finished it. what can i say? contrived situation, forced descriptions, stilted dialogue, unconvincing development...all in all pretty poor writing, even for a potentially great writer like ann patchett. gets one star for ***MILD SPOILER ALERT*** that wonderful scene in the hospital where Sullivan confesses to Tennessee and a second star because I know, as much as I didn't enjoy this book, it'll grow a bit on me on reflection because ann patchett is cleverly taking on some big issues (racism, poverty, family love) obliquely, and so there is much more symbolism going on under the surface in this novel than meets the eye....if only the surface weren't so damn choppy....


Felix Jim said:
Moving beyond the racial issues, I see the book raising some serious questions about what a family means, showing siblings who aren't exactly siblings and parents who aren't exactly parents.

That very succinctly sums up what the book is about, for me. Patchett is always concerned with family and how differently relationships can be formed.

Placing adopted black children in a privileged white family, with the mother still present if not observed provides many interesting facets to Patchett's treatment of the relationships of the family she has set in motion.



message 37: by Dora (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dora Jim expressed part of what I was trying to get at. For me, Kenya is the central character because she pulls the family together; she's the only member of the family who has a strong relationship with each of the main characters. I like to think that she presents us a mixed-race family without explicit commentary on race because she wants to help us imagine a world where racial issues have evaporated.


message 38: by Rob (new) - rated it 1 star

Rob McMonigal Finally got this from the library. Really wish I hadn't. I really shouldn't have gone all the way to the finish but I got too far to quit.

Bev's early comment pretty much sums it all up for me so I won't belabor the point.

The book is so unrealistic at so many places it requires taking suspension of disbelief and throwing it off the Empire State Building.

I can't see how this one got to be so popular but then again, I'm not really into American Idol, Adam Sandler comedies, or anything else that seems to be what the rest of the world likes, so maybe it's just me.


message 39: by Rob (new) - rated it 1 star

Rob McMonigal Sherry asked,
"But, Ruth, don't you think there is room for novels
that aren't about dysfunction and strife?"

Most certainly there are! I know I've read some but I can't think of any off the top of my head. The problem is that this one had so many problems with the concept that it fell apart under its own weight.

I have no problem with a happy ending--I have a problem with a book that isn't a fantasy or sci fi novel that doesn't even stop to think, "could this really happen?"

Had Padgett asked that a few more times, this could have been a better book.


message 40: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth Of course there's room for novels that aren't about dysfunction and strife. But I think this book has no depth. Everybody is good, everything is good. Even the bad stuff is good.

R


Wilhelmina Jenkins Perhaps the basic problem is that Patchett handles the racial issue with a light hand when we are used to having it thrust into our face.

I couldn't agree more, Jim.

I know that the group read this book a year ago, but I just finished it, and I thought that it was well done. I have a very sensitive radar for what I tend to call "Black folks from Mars" - Black people who do not resemble any Black people that I have ever seen or heard of. I can leave a book right in the bookstore if I randomly open it to a page with unrecognizable Black characters on it. These young people seemed exactly right to me, in so many ways. Tip not even thinking about his birth father because he couldn't picture a Black man sharing his interests; the ability of Black people to fade into the background and not be noticed (the invisible man?); Kenya's astonishment and delight at seeing Harvard, then feeling that she had failed some kind of test for not knowing Thoreau. I could go on for quite a while. All of this was right on the money to me. The boys' comfort with their privileged surroundings didn't seem odd - it was their life. Why not? But it did not mean that they were unaware of their blackness; it just wasn't the most important thing in their lives at every given moment.

Probably no one will ever see this belated comment, but I agree with Sherry - this book was about love.

Oh, I really hated the ghost scene - she could have found a better way of conveying that information.


message 42: by Sharon L. (last edited Mar 29, 2012 06:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sharon L. Sherman Just finished this book--over four years after most of you read it--and will definitely look up the Joe Kennedy/Bros. Karamazov connection. I started reading Bel Canto about two years ago and didn't finish it so the first of Patchett's novels that drew me to her is State of Wonder.

I don't think interracial families need to be dysfunctional, but I find it hard to believe that the brothers never appeared to experience any racism growing up. (I write this as Trayvon Martin's death is still a hot topic and a biracial president may or may not be reelected this fall. I think it's always going to be appropriate for writers to tackle these issues-even if they don't have any answers.)

I thought about both families and what rang most true for me was the economic disparity between near-neighbors and how oblivious (on an emotional level, not an intellectual one) the Doyles were to the working poor. The author's ending could, I believe, have benefited from having the oldest Doyle son be the narrator--of all the characters, I most connected with him.

Since Mrs. Doyle was dead I think the intro to the real Tennessee was a good twist, but as Kenya inherits the statue, I would have liked to know that she felt connected to the family legacy better.

Hope to hear if opinions have changed in four years--I'd love to see this discussion continue!


message 43: by Athy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Athy The first book I read by Ann was also State of Wonder. I have since gone back and read all the others and I really like her. I do have to say that I can see these other points of view presented but I really like her work. I saw a review of her book State of Wonder in the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a very well-respected scientific research journal. Wht I lke most is that each of her books is different in its own way. I look forward to her next title.


Nicole Ash I lIked this book. But I had a hard time getting into it.


Joclyn I'm confused... is this discussion about "Run," "Bel Cantu," or "State of Wonder?"


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