Whenever I think of people I’m proud to say hail from my home state, Dolly Parton is one of the first people that comes to mind. Her program to ensure that every child in our state gets a free book once a month from birth to age five led to us referring to her as “Aunt Dolly” when each new book showed up for the first five years of my daughter’s life.*
*On a related note, going to the mailbox without the hope that a new book might show up just isn’t nearly as much fun.
So, when I heard that Ms. Parton was publishing a fictional novel, part of me was excited to see what kind of story “Aunt Dolly” might tell. My hopes for the novel were tempered when I heard that she was co-authoring the book with best-selling machine James Patterson.
But I still picked up Run Rose Run with a bit of optimism and hope.
After finishing the book, I’ve come away with a couple of thoughts. One is that the producers of Nashville should have put Dolly on the payroll to write for that show. The other is that Ms. Parton and Mr. Patterson are not two great tastes that taste great together.
AnnieLee Keyes arrives in Nashville with just the clothes on her back and dreams of taking the country music world by storm. Ruthanna Ryder is the retired queen of country music who has become a recluse in her Nashville mansion, surrounded by her support staff. That staff includes Ethan Burke, a veteran with demons and secrets of his own. Ethan hears AnnieLee singing in the dive bar that Ruthanna owns and pesters Ruthanna into coming out of her mansion to hear AnnieLee, saying that AnnieLee could be the next big thing in country music.
When Run Rose Run focuses on AnnieLee’s rise in the world of country music, the book sings. It seems fairly clear that the sections featuring AnnieLee and Ruthanna discussing the status of country music, its rich history, and the business as a whole are the most heavily influenced by Ms. Parton.
It’s when the novel abruptly and awkwardly shifts from a story of a girl’s entry into the music business and tries to become a thriller when things go off the rails a bit. AnnieLee has secrets and is on the run from her past — a past, that keeps catching up to her at the most awkward moments. At one point, AnnieLee jumps from a fourth-story balcony to escape her pursuers.
I don’t necessarily mind a good chase or a little suspense in my story. But this angle of Run Rose Run is so awkwardly inserted into the story that it completely removed me from the novel every time it was introduced.
It also, unfortunately, kept me from truly enjoying the novel as much as I could or should have.