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There had always been the Running Man...always that phantom form somewhere in the distance, always shuffling relentlessly closer...Fourteen-year-old Joseph, a talented artist, is drawing a portrait of his silent, brooding neighbour, Tom Leighton. To draw him accurately, Joseph must see beyond the rumours and gossip to the man himself, the Vietnam War veteran who passes his days tending his silkworms and keeping his dark secrets. Joseph's own horror of the running man, the dishevelled figure of his nightmares, endlessly repeating a pattern, recedes with his growing understanding of the difficult relationships in his family.
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Gr 9 Up-Joseph, a 14-year-old living in an Australian suburb, draws a portrait of a reclusive neighbor for a school assignment. A Vietnam vet, Tom Leyton lives in his family home with his outgoing sister, Caroline, and devotes his time to raising silkworms. A nosy neighbor warns Joseph and his mum about rumors that Tom was asked to leave his teaching position due to improper behavior toward a student, but Joseph perseveres, with Caroline's encouragement. At first almost noncommunicative, Tom gradually opens up to shy Joseph, who in turn shares secrets regarding his absent father. Threaded throughout the tale is Joseph's fascination with the Running Man, a homeless person who jogs through the streets, and about whom he has nightmares. This nearly plotless story features strong character development and delves into the post-traumatic stress syndrome afflicting Tom. However, when he finally tells Joseph about the events in Vietnam that have left him so scarred, the dialogue becomes stilted and unnatural. Bauer's writing style veers between reserved and stiff, and the silkworm metaphor-"All their lives in a box!"-is troweled on too thickly. The Running Man, introduced early on, does not reemerge until late in the story. The explanation for Joseph's father's absence, especially as the underlying reason for the teen's reticence, is introduced so late that it merely interrupts the flow of the narrative instead of enhancing the climax. While this novel will appeal to students seeking a thoughtful psychological character study, it is marred by more telling than showing.-Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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