Monday, July 25, 2016


Julia Dahl was another person I encountered at Thrillerfest on one of the panels.  I didn't purchase her book at the festival store, but I purchased it later when I was at Barnes & Noble.  Why?  Quickly, the name of this book sucks and it kind of put me off.  I mean seriously?  "Run You Down"???  

Ok, I know that it represents the virulent nature of anti-semitism which is at the heart of this book, that it has to do with people who gratuitously drive their cars into Jews walking on the side of the road, and that it is about the kind of law enforcement that would blame the victim in such a situation and fail to enforce the law. However, come on people involved in producing this book--I mean, seriously?You are going to call the book "Run You Down"? Just no. There has to be a better name.  

In addition, the cover for this book sucks as well.  I mean boring boring boring.  If I met it on the side of the road when someone was trying to run me down, I'd fall asleep.  I mean asleep people! Of course, this is not Julia Dahl's fault.  Ms. Dahl wrote an excellent book that I couldn't put down.  But her production people who were doing the physical book? They should be ashamed!  

Looking at this book, this is a day when I thank the good Lord for allowing me to be a self published author because I know I got my titles and book covers right because I micromanaged them from beginning to end.  Ok, one of them was a little silly, but still I liked it.  

Ok, moving along!  I'll get over it.  Let's turn our attention to Julia Dahl's contribution to this book, the story itself!

The book, "Run You Down" continues on where Ms. Dahl's first book "Invisible City left off with Rebekah Roberts, the journalist/investigator, recovering from the events in the first book. As you may recall, "Invisible City" as does "Run You Down" bounces back and forth between the hassidic community of Rebekah's absent mother, Aviva, and the non Jewish community she grew up in with her father.   

For those who recall the story,  Rebekah's mother abandoned her at birth and disappeared back into the Hassidic community.  

As Book Two of this series begins, Rebekah is experiencing major anxiety and depression as a result of the trauma she endured solving the case in the first book.  Now she is working on getting her medication in order and getting back on her feet. Her supervisors have taken her off the beat as a street journalist and she is now sitting in the Trib's offices piecing together stories from the info journalists pass on to her.  She is none too happy with this kind of boring, desk job.  

So when a young man, Levi Goldin, calls her about his wife, Pessie's mysterious death in a bathtub at her home in the Jewish enclave of Roseville, NY, Rebekah is up and ready to go. Interspersed between Rebekah's narrative of her investigation into Pessie's death is her mother's story told from the past to the present, starting at the point when Aviva realizes that she has become pregnant with Rebekah.  As the story unfolds, we begin to understand more and more clearly what made Aviva abandon her daughter and what have been the devastating consequences of that abandonment.  

Like "Invisible City", "Run You Down" despite its abysmal title, is another all absorbing, suspenseful read.  Once I started the book, I found it impossible to put down and so this is another book I read in a day.   Luckily, I didn't start it in the evening or else I would have stayed up all night trying to figure out "who did it."  To be honest, I'm a big reader, so I'm pretty good at figuring out who the killer is, but in this book, I completely missed it, so I had to keep reading to get more clues.  

There was a lot in this book that made me think of Chaim Potok's "The Chosen".  Here was a situation, like in "The Chosen" where the expectations and assumptions of a centuries long, insular community clash with those of the prevailing culture.  I think "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan is very much on the same level.  

How do people brought up in such a culture find a way to reach out and grow beyond it, or minimally come to terms with it?  How do members of the prevailing culture find a way to accept the customs of a peoples very different than their own?  

In a remarkable way, America provides so many cultures with this opportunity and it is a great gift in some ways, but in others the outcome can be disastrous.  I'm thinking of the "lost boys" who have been ejected from the FDLS in Utah.  I am thinking of the intrusiveness of tourists who come to gawk and stare at the Amish people who simply wish to go about their lives in peace, but end up being caricatured in reality shows like "Breaking Amish." 

Throughout the novel, Julia Dahl does a very insightful, sensitive and thoughtful examination of these forces of inclusion and exclusion within different communities  She reflects deeply about the important questions such as:  what are individuals willing to sacrifice in order to remain safely in their communities?  What are they willing to sacrifice to be able to leave and be free?  What is there to gain by choosing to conform? Can you walk a tightrope between these two positions?  

Luckily, Julia Dahl is uniquely equipped to tell this story since her father is Lutheran and her mother is Jewish, so she knows what it is like to be pulled between two cultures, to feel that alternate resistance and attraction as she visits the one world and the other.  

Bottom line "Run You Down" is a great read--don't miss it. Also, make sure you don't overlook the discussion questions in the end which can spark some great conversations with your friends!

To find out more about the book, click on the link below:

Read up on an interesting interview with Julia Dahl, see link:

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