I'VE NEVER met a normal family. Happy, yes; normal, no. And in Ann Patchett's Run, the Doyles are as odd as they come.
Do not, I warn you, read this while eating, as you're liable to jab the fork into your cheek as Patchett makes one of her rapid-fire plot twists.
Boston; a loving family: white mother, idealist politician father, son Sullivan, and their two adopted black babies, Tip and Ted.
The mother dies, the father turns into a mother hen, adoring the babies and somehow forgetting the older lad.
Twenty years later he drags the younger two to a Jesse Jackson lecture, and on the way out a woman pushes Tip out of the way of a car and is mown down herself.
Her daughter reveals that she's their sister - that she and her mother have watched over them for years.
"We have an 11-year-old stalker!" whispers one of the boys. But there are more twists to come in this riveting, heartwarming story.
Some cavils: the editing is flawed, with 'hoards' of people and one boy working in a 'cubical'; and inconsistencies in continuity. And while there's a happy ending for the adopted children, we're never given a resolution for troubled, semi-criminal Sullivan.
But if you want a gripping book to take your mind off your problems, this is it. Ann Patchett has done it again.