The Race by Richard North Patterson is a gripping tale of political intrigue and what it takes to win an election. Corey Grace is a Republican senator and Gulf War hero who finds himself thrust into the race for the presidency. His opponents? Senator Rob Marotta, who seems to have known he wanted to be president since he was in diapers and who harbors a deep resentment for Grace because he feels that Corey’s road in politics had been all too easy. His other opponent, Bob Christy, is an evangelical figure who has had a negative influence on Grace’s life that Christy isn’t even aware of. Sound complicated? It is – but that’s what makes The Race so deliciously intriguing. Throw in Grace’s African-American actress girlfriend (who is also a Democrat), the ambiguous suicide of Corey’s younger brother and Marotta’s vicious and unrelenting campaign manager, and you have the recipe for a surprisingly compelling tale of American politics that is all too relevant in today’s society.
Overall, many people would automatically judge a book about politics as rather drab and uninteresting. Patterson deserves high praise for weaving a tale that is about politics yet hooks the reader with its sincerity and grace (no pun intended.) That is what is remarkable about this book – it shows us both the highs and lows of politics. Patterson is not afraid to tackle sensitive issues; in the short 352 pages that make up The Race, he manages to discuss racism, homosexuality, stem cell research and terrorism. Surprisingly, though, the book is not draining. Instead it is vibrant; Patterson writes his main character, Grace, with so much enthusiasm that the reader can’t help but be buoyed by this energy.
Patterson writes politics like it is – dirty and rather uncomfortable. The primary election in South Carolina is especially telling. The fact that Grace manages to remain unsullied throughout the book is at once cheering and hard to believe. This is where the weakest point of the book lies. Grace is too good, too principled; while almost everyone in America would love to have a politician like Grace, the American political process has proven time and time again that a person must play politics in order to win. It is difficult to believe that Grace could be the good guy every single time yet still be successful in American politics. As much as I wish that were true, it doesn’t seem to fit with everything else I know about politics. In the end, it comes across as a bit corny and cheesy but doesn’t really take too much away from the rest of the book.
The ending of the book is also a bit difficult to accept. Patterson deserves praise for delivering a surprising and unexpected ending, but it leaves the reader a bit unsatisfied.
Overall, The Race is an unexpectedly good read. The characters and situations are well-written (if sometimes a little difficult to believe), and Patterson keeps the pace of the book up well. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, if you are interested in politics, this book is definitely for you. If you are indifferent or dislike politics, I urge you to give this book a chance. It might just change your mind.