book review: Running by Cara Hoffman

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Running by Cara Hoffman

US pub date: February 21, 2017

★★★

Running is a strange and ambitious whirlwind of a novel. It tells the story of Bridey Sullivan, a young American woman living on the streets of Athens, who takes up with Jasper and Milo, a British couple living and working in the hotel Olympos. The three work as ‘runners,’ essentially hustling tourists into staying at their run-down hotel in exchange for commission and a place to stay.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel and now, having finished it, I’m not really sure what I got from it. I’m sort of confused and very conflicted.

The best part of this book was the atmosphere. The red light district of 1980s Athens comes to life on the page. Evocative and lyrical, Hoffman’s prose complements the insular setting and draws the reader into this world of crime and addiction. The characters, flawed and compelling, all make a strong impression. This is a book about the indelible impressions that relationships leave over time, a motif explored particularly well by the scope of Hoffman’s narrative.

Now, onto the bad. I’m not sure what logic (if any?) Running‘s timeline follows. It’s certainly no logic that I recognize. I was constantly confused about when Bridey’s narration was taking place, and while I understand that this uncertainty was most likely intentional on the author’s part, it really detracted from my ability to get invested in this narrative. Additionally, the switches from Bridey’s first-person POV to Milo’s third-person are jarring. Maybe it’s a matter of opinion, but I personally dislike when first and third person are used in a novel together.

As a disclaimer for this next complaint, I just want to clarify that I am not the sort of reader who requires every facet of a story to be wrapped up in a neat bow. I actually enjoy ambiguous endings more often than not. But I need to feel like that ambiguity serves a purpose other than frustrating the reader, and I didn’t really get that here. This isn’t just a case of ‘do not expect answers’ – it goes further and we get into the murky territory of ‘do not even be sure which questions you’re supposed to be asking of this book.’

The bottom line is that Running needed more. There is so much potential here. A story which promises to be filled to the brim with excitement ends up being rather anemic, and I’m personally left with too many questions to have found this a particularly rewarding reading experience.

If you want a book that’s as thought-provoking as it is sultry and atmospheric, look no further. If you want a comprehensive story that examines its themes to their full potential and leaves no stone unturned, skip this one. The problem is, I’m not sure which category I fall into. A tentative 3 stars.  And bonus points for the insanely gorgeous cover.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks Netgalley, Simon & Schuster, and Cara Hoffman.

+ link to review on goodreads

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