By Ann Patchett. Published in 2007.
Ann Patchett has the remarkable ability to simultaneously ground her work in reality and spin it into fairy tale. Her novels are both of this world and otherworldly, rich in hard, telling detail that somehow transubstantiates into something magical and fragile.
That sense of grace grows in large part from her choice to tell her suspenseful stories without using villains. An idealist (though not a blind one), she chooses to see the good in all her characters, even, famously, a band of terrorists (“one man’s terrorist…” notwithstanding). It’s an incredible tightrope act, threatening to pitch into callow schmaltz at any second, but to my mind, at least, Patchett succeeds, persuasively conveying the humanity of all her characters. The worlds of The Magician’s Assistant and The Patron Saint of Liars and especially Bel Canto are, perhaps, more beautiful than our own, but under Patchett’s spell, those worlds don’t seem so very distant.
Patchett’s newest novel, Run, fits neatly within her oeuvre. It, too, is an almost fable-like tale of good people in intriguing, artfully drawn circumstances. It doesn’t have the gorgeously magical air of Bel Canto, but with its lyrical writing and gently humanistic perspective, it still has its enchanting moments.