Paul Shepherdís debut novel is complicated. Told from the point of view of 12-year-old Levi Revel, the novel examines a dysfunctional family whose patriarchís big dreams and shady past keep them on the move.
A young boy should have stability, friendships and connections to people outside his immediate family. Instead, Levi hears voices and preaches from rooftops. The voices are troubling for the young boy, and the first occurrence comes after a Sunday in Church. After a scene at the dinner table with his family, and his father getting so worked up that he tosses the table over, Levi finds solace in a tree in the yard. He hurries to climb up into a tree he has never before climbed and begins to preach, hearing the same sermon from that Sunday morning in his head. The author never explains the voices, why they come and go over the years.
Over several years, the family moves at least three times. Everest Revel, Leviís father is a builder, and his issues and troubles steal the novel. After years of travel from one location to another, with creditors, lies or his ominous past chasing the family, Everest promises his wife, Nora, and children, Levi and Carson, that he will build them a house - not just any house, but the house of Noraís dreams. With deals signed and land purchased, the building begins.
Building ends when Everest does not give the bank proof that the work is nearing completion, and creditors pounce. With her dreams of a stable home of their own and no more moving dashed, Leviís mother pulls a suitcase out of the closet and goes to Seattle to stay with her sister, Frankie. Carson ends up in Indiana with her grandparents and their dog, and Levi and his father move to Sopchoppy, New York, for a job that Everest has lined up.
It is there, in Sopchoppy, that Levi learns his fatherís secret, the one kept hidden for so long. The revelation somehow leads Everest to seek out a former military man who helped him in a time of need, Captain Jack Levi.
Following a confrontation that includes a gun, narrator Levi nearly drowns in a Motel 6 pool and wakes up to find himself in Washington State, in a place called Graylin. While there, he stops talking for a short time and later bonds with Freddie, another troubled youth in the facility.
Interspersed within the narrative of the past are page-long snippets of what may be considered the present of a grown Levi, who paints and repairs steeples. His soliloquies about rock-climbing with his boss, Duvall, tell a little more about the grown man, showing a bit of the stability he never had as a child.
While the plot wanders at times, there is something that cannot be explained but will not let you put this book down. More Like Not Running Away is an intense, complex read.