After I finished this book, I just sat still, gobsmacked. It was incredible. And though I absolutely loved Su Sokol’s, Cycling to Asylum, Run J Run will stay with me a very long time.
What I find extremely important about this work is that it starts with a content warning:
The following material contains discussions of self-harm, suicide attempts and ideation, childhood physical and sexual abuse, racialized and police violence.Content warning from Run J Run
And here’s the synopsis:
Jeremy, a high school English teacher coming to grips with a shattered marriage and haunted by the brother he lost, unexpectedly falls in love with his best friend, Zak. Attractive, wildly unconventional, and happy in an open relationship with his partner Annie, Zak seems to embody everything missing from Jeremy’s life, but when the arrest and death of a marginalized student at the Brooklyn high school where they both teach trigger Zak’s mental breakdown and slow descent, Jeremy and Annie are compelled to cross boundaries, both external and internal, in a desperate attempt to save him.Back matter of Run J Run by Su Sokol (Renaissance)
So, yes, there are a lot of intense themes in Run J Run, but even though subject matter like this is often difficult for me to watch or read, I felt that Sokol crafted the lives of these characters in a way that made me actively care for their well being, and I wanted to find out everything about them. This book also has erotic scenes woven into the storyline, but in my opinion, I felt they shaped both the story and the character arcs.
Quite often, writing characters with complex mental illnesses is done poorly, using harmful tropes. Not so with this work. It is so heavily nuanced; the characters are anything but one dimensional, and the representation of a polyamorous relationship goes so much deeper. Sokol truly underscores the reality of what it’s like for partners to want to keep their loved one from suffering while not sacrificing the untamed nature of who he really is. Annie, Zak, and J are so believable in their interactions. I just found myself empathizing with each of their points of view and hoping for all three of them when things seemed hopeless.
Every scene is so richly crafted, every emotion palatable. I felt like I was right there, drawn into in every scene. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Run J Run is currently available in e-book and paperback from Presses Renaissance Press.
Cait Gordon is a disability advocate and the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology in an attempt to take over the world. Narf.