A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti


Goodreads Synopsis:

When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she’ll finally face what lies behind her—the miles and love and loss…and what is to come.

If I could recommend one book to read this year, it would be this. I loved it so so much, and it will stick with me for a very long time.

Things start out a little vague but slowly picks up as we begin to learn so many things about Annabelle and her past. Due to a very traumatic experience, Annabelle decides to pursue a daunting task: running cross country from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC. It is a five-month journey with her running from town to town, with her grandfather following her in an RV, and she meets many supporters along the way. But the reason isn’t instantaneously clear to us, the reader. All we know is that she is doing this out of many emotions: grief, guilt, remorse, and with the hope to heal.

I don’t usually gravitate toward books where, from just reading the description, sounds like a “journeying” story. But oh my god, I am so glad I did. This is so much more than journeying from point A to point B. You see, we also learn that Annabelle is trying so hard to move on from the pain created by a nameless individual called The Taker, and as she continues, mile after mile, she slowly begins to shed the feelings of guilt. She wants to make a change. She has to do something.

I also want to mention that it is addressed in the book that the type of long distance running Annabelle is doing isn’t recommended. It puts way too much stress on your body, no matter how well trained you are at long distance running. So, while it may not be truly realistic, it is mentioned several times she doesn’t push herself to run too long, and she gets lots of food/drinks via local supporters and her grandfather in their RV. Plus, her brother and friends are just THE BEST, and they plan out safe routes for her and arrange any sort of accommodations she needs.

I know I am being rather vague but I don’t want to give any hints of spoilers, because I think this book will be so much more impactful if you jump right into it. But it does deal with a lot of heavy themes such as toxic masculinity, especially how much women have to be so cautious when we are nice to someone or fear we are giving mixed signals. And also the importance of taking someone’s pleas for help seriously. Y’all, my copy of this book is so heavily tabbed because I could not relate to it more! So many times me and my friends went through similar experiences in high school (and this was back in the early 2000’s) and just seeing Annabelle go through the same things made me so angry and exhausted. It just makes me so sad this is something we still have to deal with today.

Alright, I know I wasn’t extremely detailed in my review but if I could recommend any book to read RIGHT NOW it would be this. Yes, the topics are heavy, but I promise you it is so worth it. It is a story about healing and how running not only helped heal Annabelle, but also brought a whole community, a whole nation, together.

Read further for minor spoilers and trigger warnings:

And, honestly… in light of some recent tragic news in the US in association with gun violence… I just feel this book is so important now more than ever.

Trigger warnings: Unwanted touching, stalking, gun violence, murder, PTSD.


Buddy read with Sophie!

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