Someone to Run With A Novel

David Grossman; Translated by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz

Picador

031242194X

9780312421946

Trade Paperback

352 Pages

$16.00

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Earnest, awkward, and painfully shy, sixteen-year-old Assaf is having the worst summer of his life. With his big sister gone to America and his best friend suddenly the most popular kid in their class, Assaf worries away his days at a lowly summer job in Jerusalem's city hall and spends his evenings alone, watching television and playing games on the Internet.

One morning, Assaf's routine is interrupted by an absurd assignment: to find the owner of a stray yellow Labrador retriever. Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, Tamar, a talented young singer with a lonely, tempestuous soul, undertakes an equally unpromising mission: to rescue a drug-addicted boy from the underworld . . . and, eventually, to find her dog.

Someone to Run With is the most popular work to date from "a writer who has been, for nearly two decades, one of the most original and talented . . . anywhere" (The New York Times Book Review), a bestseller hailed by the Israeli press (and by reform politicians such as Shimon Peres) for its mixture of fairy-tale magic, emotional sensitivity, and gritty realism. The novel explores the life of Israeli street kids—whom Grossman interviewed extensively—and the anxieties of family life in a society racked by self-doubt. Most of all, it evokes the adventure of adolescence and the discovery of love as Tamar and Assaf, pushed beyond the limits of childhood by their quests, find themselves, and each other.

REVIEWS

Praise for Someone to Run With

"Beautiful and arresting . . . Like the best fables, Someone to Run With hoists the reader into a world larger and more luminous than any found outside the book. Grossman has created a place of great dangers and improbable strokes of fortune, of compelling suspense and love’s labor gained."—Los Angeles Times

"In Grossman's latest novel, which tumbles along the dusty streets of Jerusalem, adolescent idealism and angst keep the characters on the move. Assaf, a shy misfit, embarks upon a quixotic journey with a lost dog to find its mistress. Tamar, a caustic fifteen-year-old who can sing Mozart and Leonard Cohen on demand, runs away from home to find the criminals who have ensnared her older brother. A young street musician, in the grip of a heroin habit as formidable as his talent, stumbles through his routines with death close behind. The resulting picaresque is a cross between Run Lola Run and Oliver Twist, and as the reader waits for these solitary odysseys to intersect, the urgency becomes almost unbearable. Grossman evokes teen-age nobility and self-hatred in all its pimply particularity, while slyly suggesting that the arduous quest for connections should never be outgrown."—The New Yorker

"In its wittily idiomatic translation, Someone to Run With is an enjoyable novel."—Gabriele Annan, The New York Review of Books

"Grossman is a highly intelligent writer . . . [This is] a literary political novel [that] engages us with the means and effects of its storytelling."—Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review

"Grossman's sixth novel, Someone to Run With, reveals again that he is one of contemporary literature's most versatile and absorbing writers . . . [This] is Grossman at his most accessible, but it preserves the qualities that characterize his more opaque works . . . An almost unbearably suspenseful narrative . . . Grossman demonstrates an astonishing ability to portray the world of youth . . . With his journalistic eye for realistic detail, Grossman never lets us forget that Assaf and Tamar are young, lochbut he simultaneously refuses to patronize them with the lazy generalizations adults often apply to adolescence. Someone to Run With seamlessly combines suspense with subtle insights into the way we live now . . . A deceptively simple story that is another revelation of Grossman's genius."—Kenneth Brewer, San Francisco Chronicle

"There's much to praise [here] . . . Grossman has written an urban adventure story, and he sets it in motion like a pro . . . [The book offers] a portrait of the teenage mind that's both refreshingly noble and convincingly observed."—Justin Cronin, The Washington Post Book World

"A delightful novel [in a] sprightly translation by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz . . . Grossman has such a tender ear for the whimpers of adolescent loneliness and such deep appreciation for youthful heroism . . . The age range for this book is unusually wide . . . It would be a shame not to alert high school teachers and librarians to this gem."—Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

"[Grossman] tells a universal story about the loneliness and insecurity of adolescence, as well as the redeeming power of love and human connection."—Reform Judaism
"Within the stylized format of hair-raising adventure, [this] novel portrays the harrowing rites of passage necessary to making the leap to adulthood."—Dan Cryer, Newsday

"It's plain to see Mr. Grossman's skill as a storyteller. Someone to Run With is an involving novel, full of drama and suspense . . . His greatest strength, however, is taking us into the minds of his two leading characters as they navigate the shoals and depths of that always difficult passage, adolescence . . . Here, as in such earlier novels as See Under: LOVE, The Zigzag Kid, and The Book of Intimate Grammar, Mr. Grossman demonstrates his affinity for adolescents—and his outstanding ability to get into their minds. The questions they ask themselves, the problems they face, and the ways in which they come to understand the world and their relationship to it are qualities that render these young people relevant to readers of all ages."—Merle Rubin, The Washington Times

"Very different from Grossman's books of political commentary, this entertaining novel is more like his Zigzag Kid (1997), part urban survival adventure, part YA romance, and part mystery. A bestseller in Israel and translated from the Hebrew in an informal, relaxed style, the story weaves together the lives of two middle-class teens who find themselves in Jerusalem's violent drug underworld. Tamar, a talented singer, runs away from home with her beloved dog, shaves her head, sets up a hideout. Who is she searching for? Why is she on the run? When she loses her dog, awkward, shy teenager Assaf finds the stray lab, who then leads him on a wild chase across the city until they find Tamar . . . The many plot surprises about 'unconscious messengers' are fun . . . For many readers, the most memorable character will be the lost dog, who always knows where he is going, who he is, and who he loves."—Hazel Rochman, Booklist

"Every once in a while, Grossman abandons his structurally intricate, morally complex novels of Israeli society, such as Be My Knife and See Under: Love, for lighter fare aimed at both adolescent and adult readers. But 'lighter' is a relative term; like his previous adventure story The Zigzag Kid, this new novel drags its teenage protagonists through some heavy terrain . . . In Grossman's hands, this plot is both pleasingly familiar and made new through immersion in the details of Israeli life. Almog and Gurantz do a fine job translating the book's mix of teenage dialogue and lush description."—Publishers Weekly

"[A]greeably melodramatic . . . Here, two Israeli teenagers undertake intersecting perilous quests. When Assaf, who is 16 and enduring a demeaning summertime job at Jerusalem's City Hall, is ordered to find (and fine) the owner of an obstreperous stray dog, he stumbles into a world reshaped by terrorist attacks, rampant criminality, and confused loyalties. Discovering that the person he seeks is a runaway girl (also 16) named Tamar, Assaf (and the dog, Dinka) prowl Jerusalem's darkest corners, receiving leading information from Theodora, an aged Greek nun who hasn't left her apartment in 50 years, yet seems to have been a de facto fairy godmother to vagabond youths and street people. Meanwhile, Grossman constructs a parallel narrative (beginning earlier than do Assaf's adventures) of Tamar's entry into a gang of street performers masterminded by criminal boss Pesach (whose other minions pick the pockets of his performers' audiences). We learn that Tamar, a precociously gifted singer, is seeking her brother Shai, a heroin addict in thrall to Pesach. The two narratives move swiftly, eventually joining for a prolonged climax, during which Tamar and Assaf see Shai through a gruelling withdrawal, and Assaf understands the necessity and comfort of having 'someone to run with' in such embattled times. This is a consistently absorbing tale . . . We soon see that [Theodora] is Grossman's version of Great Expectations's immortal recluse Miss Havisham—and that the hyperbole with which [his novel's] young protagonists' exploits are imbued very effectively dramatizes the experience of living in a volatile society and the resources required for survival therein. [This is] Grossman's most entertaining book yet."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Someone to Run With
IA dog runs through the streets, a boy runs after it. A long rope connects the two and gets tangled in the legs of the passersby, who grumble and gripe, and the boy mutters "Sorry, sorry" again and again. In between mumbled sorries he yells "Stop! Halt!"--and to his shame a "Whoa-ah!" escapes from his lips. And the dog keeps running.It flies on, crossing busy streets, running red lights. Its golden coat disappears before the boy's very eyes and reappears between people's legs, like a secret code. "Slower!" the boy yells, and thinks that if only he knew the dog's name, he
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • David Grossman; Translated by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz

  • David Grossman is the author of six novels and three works of nonfiction. He lives in Jerusalem.
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