*Thank you to Ecco for letting me review this novel.
“The city was watching and then it wasn’t. A seam of wildfire began to threaten Malibu State Park. A singer was found dead in the Peninsula Hotel. And everyone’s attention turned west away from the naked man running down the 110. But he was there– Tony and Ren know. And he’s still somewhere, running, naked. He will be found. He has to be. Because no one can vanish for good. Not in Los Angeles. Not with so many people watching.”
The book starts in 2010 with a normal traffic jam through downtown LA. Then all of a sudden a naked man runs between each car with no care in the world. Little do readers know that this naked man would bring multiple people together.
The novel jumps back and forth between 2006 and 2010. In 2006, some of the characters are at a commune in Wonder Valley. In 2010, all of them are in Los Angeles. There are five different protagonists who share their point of view throughout the novel: Britt, James, Blake, Tony and Ren.
In 2006, Britt ends up in the desert by herself because she is running away from her past. She finds this cult in Wonder Valley and starts to come to terms with why she ended up there in the first place.
Then there is James, whose dad is the leader of the cult. James struggles with identity, especially since he feels as if his twin brother, Owen, knows more about life than he does. He feels as if he’ll always be one step behind him.
Blake comes to Wonder Valley after his best friend Sam gets in trouble with the law. When Sam breaks his ankle, Blake has to find a place where they can lay low. They end up in one of the empty cabins in Wonder Valley. Blake and Sam are trouble makers, and they stir up a lot of trouble once they meet the members of the commune.
In 2010, readers meet Ren and Tony. Ren is a young kid who just got out of juvie. He winds up in Los Angeles looking for his mom and finds her on Skid Row. He tells himself that he needs to get her back home to the East Coast. But he runs into problems that cause him to stay on the streets longer than he would like.
Tony is having a midlife crisis. After he saw the naked runner, he jumped out of his car to follow him. This led to him being arrested and his wife suggesting they leave town for the weekend. Before they leave, Tony goes out on a run and meets Britt. The author, Ivy Pochoda, starts to weave each of the characters’ lives together after this meeting.
Each person has his or her own issues they are trying to overcome. The beauty of this book is that Los Angeles becomes the place where their lives collide together in a surprising way. And this happened because of one person: the naked runner.
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