Run Away: a father’s search for his daughter doesn’t work as well as I thought

Run Away book review

What is this about?: This is about a father and a husband searching for his daughter, which in turn leads to some bigger truths about his family.

What else is this about?: Not a whole lot more, I must admit. But I have questions about choices in this story and as I try to figure this out in this review, there are going to be spoilers


You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, quite by chance, you see her busking in New York’s Central Park.

But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is wasted, frightened and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Where criminal gangs rule, where drugs are the main currency, and murder is commonplace.

Now it’s your life on the line. And nowhere and no one is safe.

Harlan Coben is one of those authors I tend to think will always write something enjoyable. There’s just something about the way his mind works that makes me fall into his worlds and enjoy myself. However, with Run Away, I have questions and as I am struggling to make sense of things.

Spoilers from this point on because I need to get this all out so you all can tell me if I need to stop overthinking this

This is a story about a father and not really about his daughter 

When I read the blurb for this book, I expected Simon to be the MC in this book and around whom the book revolves, but I also expected his daughter to have a healthy presence in this — and if the MC is still married, I figured his wife would surely have to have a role of some sort as he searches for *their* daughter as well.

Simon’s daughter Paige is a drug addict. She ran away from home to be with her boyfriend, Aaron. Simon gets a lead that she’s busking in Central Park, and he finds her and gets into a fight with Aaron, which lands on Youtube. This bit of randomness leads us to his family, to how his wife Ingrid, a doctor, is trying to come to terms with Paige’s decisions her own way, and his other kids who are living their life and doing their best.

In contrast to Simon’s desperate concern for Paige, Ingrid is cold even as you know that she’s right — that Paige has to want to do into rehab for it to work, Simon can’t force her to go as much as he wants to.

When Aaron is murdered, and Paige becomes a suspect, they go looking for her and Ingrid is shot and ends up in a coma.

And Simon decides to continue to look for Paige because he wants to save her, but he doesn’t want her not to see her mother either.

This is where the book started to lose me

In the course of his search, Simon meets Elena a PI hired by a concerned father to find his son, Henry. They work together during the novel, but in addition to them, there are two other characters who link the narrative to a cult. And are also killers for hire. Or the guy is anyway.

It sort of all comes together, bear with me.

So Simon searches and searches, and meets a host of interesting characters, but really, it is Elena that succeeds in uncovering a bigger scandal that involves selling babies on the black market. The killers I mentioned get on their trail as well and slowly their purpose and immense amount of time spent on the cult in this book becomes clear.

Notice how I’m not saying a whole lot about what Simon does? That’s right, he doesn’t do a whole lot in this book but be a father desperate to find his daughter, which is a whole lot less than the blurb led me to believe. In fact, it’s Elena that does most of the lifting in the investigation, and the killers’ presence makes sense without much from Simon. 

The whole father angle, I get, I truly do.  The book makes his desperation clear and you’ll feel for him.

As he investigates, Simon begins to find out things that make him question what he has assumed about Ingrid and Paige and what they’ve told him… but neither woman is there to have any input in a story that actually involves them a whole lot more than the beginning of the book would lead us to believe.

Literally — Ingrid is in a coma and Paige is missing pretty much for the entire book until the very end. Simon is left with questions upon questions about them, and is making assumptions about them but they have no agency in this story. They’re just there to drive his man-pain. Right until the end, when he discovers exactly what Ingrid lied to him about, and why Paige was lying in her own way.

This wouldn’t be a problem if Simon’s investigations had more substance than essentially revolving around how hurt he is about what Ingrid and Paige aren’t telling him. Sure there’s some actual investigation and promising rewards for information, but his purpose in this book is to throw up questions about Ingrid and Paige — who as I said, are incapable of doing anything, not even defending themselves. 

Until that point, I began to realise just how naive Simon is. He has this ideal image of his wife and daughter in his head, which I understand, but which makes me long for the missed opportunities that came with having Ingrid in a coma and Paige off screen basically.

And the tragedy of this is that by the end, knowing Ingrid’s choices, I could see just how complex a character she is, and that made me regret not being able to read the conversations with her husband that she should have been having about those choices.

The conversations this family have at the end are information dumps, putting everything the reader has just been through into context. So instead of having these conversations with the Paige and Ingrid as the story progressed, they’re left to the end, where all the emotional resonance is just gone. Instead, this information is left to percolate in Simon’s mind until the end when he makes choices that didn’t give me an emotional payoff. And, I cannot get over how much emotional goodness and conversations that could have been had between these members of this family during the book, that could have driven the plot… and there was nothing.

I have to note this piece of illogic: why would Ingrid’s sister not tell Simon a secret of Ingrid’s if it could help Simon in some way find out what happened to Paige? It’s not even that secret has no bearing on Simon’s search, it’s that her sister says it’s not her secret to tell. And then that conversation goes nowhere anyway because Simon figures out the secret himself in the end, when everyone is okay. Why bring it up in the first place during his search?

The desperate father angle would have resonated more with me if the story didn’t actually end up revolving around Ingrid and Paige’s choices. In the end, this highlighted just how much Simon didn’t know about these two women in his life, and even that didn’t go anywhere.

I know this is getting rave reviews, but honestly, this befuddled me entirely. I was just kind of glad for the ending so at least I could understand why so much damn time was spent on the cult at least.


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