Published by Simon Pulse on September 18, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Content warnings: intimacy, stalking, grief, PTSD, depression, gun violence, murder, death of loved ones, self-harm by way of pushing past physical boundaries
As a voracious reader, I’ve read many stories over the course of my lifetime that have resonated with me deeply. But books like A Heart in a Body in the World, books that strike you in your very soul— those are much fewer and far between. This book contains one of the most important stories I’ve ever read.
In A Heart in a Body in the World, we follow a runner named Annabelle who, after undergoing a terrible tragedy, decides to run from her home city of Seattle, WA across the country to Washington, DC. It’s a story about grief, about guilt, about toxic masculinity and how it breeds violence, about what it means to be a person. Every single element is masterfully woven into this gorgeous narrative.
I don’t know how to fully articulate the emotional impact this book had on me. It’s brutally painful to read, but that just makes the moments of hope in this story all the more joyful and triumphant. Annabelle’s physical journey mirrors a personal one. I felt for Annabelle during every panic attack, every guilty feeling, every memory, and every triumph. Unfortunately, her story is one that will be all too familiar to women everywhere.
A huge thread in the story revolves around what it’s like to exist as a woman in a world where, all too often, we are still viewed as objects, as prizes, as possessions. It examines the real, horrific repercussions of toxic masculinity. Women are socialized to never, ever come across as impolite or unfriendly, and too often, that puts our safety at risk. So much gun violence we see in this country stems back to toxic masculinity, to this sense of entitlement toward women, and I really appreciate Caletti tackling these subjects in tandem in this book.
Over the course of the story, Annabelle runs 2,700 miles. I’m not a runner, so the idea of running 16 miles a day for five months straight is just… mind-boggling to me. Though Annabelle originally embarks on this journey alone to process her trauma, her family and friends form the support system that keeps her going. I LOVED every single one of Annabelle’s friends and family so, so much. From her mother, Gina, who calls her three times a day to check in; to her brother, Malcolm, who, along with two of her friends, sets up a GoFundMe to fund Annabelle’s run; to her grandfather, who drives the trip along with her in his RV, watching over her every step of the way… their support brought tears to my eyes. They were always there to pick her up when the journey seemed impossible. Some of my favorite scenes in the book involved Annabelle running into people along her route who heard about her run and showed up to support her in ways both large and small. The kindness of these strangers was one of the most hopeful parts of the story– it reinforces the fact that, while the world is terrible and dark and contains some awful people, there are also so many good people. What are we even doing on this earth if we don’t look out for one another, anyway?
This was, somehow, my first Deb Caletti novel, and her writing was stunning. I was put off at the beginning of the story due to the use of third-person present tense, but after reading a few chapters, this tense did not detract from my enjoyment of the story whatsoever. There are stunning, poignant passages about womanhood, violence, grief, and kindness throughout the novel. Every few pages, I would read a paragraph that left me breathless, which hasn’t happened in to me in quite a while. The care Caletti put into writing this story is evident on every page.
Okay, now that I’ve cried three times while writing this review… I could go on and on about A Heart in a Body in the World and why it’s exactly the timely, important story that everyone needs to read, but honestly? I think this is a reading experience you have to experience yourself. I recommend this story to absolutely everyone. It instantly became my favorite book of the year, and I think it’ll be damn near impossible to top it.
Have you read A Heart in a Body in the World? If so, let’s discuss. If not, please, please pick it up.