September 22, 2023
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On the Run
Book Reviews Fiction History

On the Run by William Shaw: History Mixed with great storytelling

Author: William Shaw

Genre: Historical fiction

Year Published: 2023

Nerdection Rating:

“Nerdection Must Read”

Spoiler-free Plot

On the Run is a book of the historical fiction genre by William Shaw and is set in the early 80s, with the protagonist, Irish young man Tim Connolly, moving to New York after his father has been sentenced to jail time. However, his time in America is not better as he is treated poorly by his American family and his peers in school.

Things begin to change when Tim discovers that he is really good at tracking and dedicates his life to it, which helps him during these trying times, although it presents a lot of new challenges for him as well.

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My take on On the Run

One of the things that stood out the most for me when it comes to this book is how it combines the classic tropes of historical fiction with the ones we usually see in sports fiction. This combination is exhilarating and a very good combination that works quite well and adds drama, strong characterization, and a great understanding of what makes storytelling tick.

First of all, the historical element of Ireland in the early 80s, with a strong political undertone, is a nice touch since it contrasts with the many different struggles that Tim has to deal with in the early stages of the book. A key element in storytelling is setting up the status quo and author William Shaw does a very solid job in that regard, giving us the readers a very good understanding of who our characters are and the place they are in.

In that regard, it is easy to root for Tim Connolly as a protagonist. He is young and thrown into a lot of different circumstances that are not his fault, which constantly pushes him to struggle, endure, and find ways to survive, whether it’s physically, mentally, or emotionally. This is further emphasized when he discovers his passion for running, which was one of my favorite moments in the book as a whole.

Character growth is quite notorious in this book, which is more than welcome. A lot of writers tend to struggle with side characters and don’t know how to keep things balanced, but I would argue that Shaw knows how to do this very well. My only gripe is that I feel some character arcs could have been done with a few more pages here and there but in general terms, they were well done.

The character of John Quigley is a particular highlight for me. He is Tim’s coach and he is dealing with his own frustrations and broken dreams after the war in Korea, which is something that works very well to contrast and compare with our main character. John, in many ways, serves as an older and broken version of Tim, having to deal with his drinking problem and having to find ways to overcome his resentment towards his student.

There is a tangible element of tension and realism to the story that works wonders. In many ways, it reminds me of those classic sports films that are inspired by real-life events, although I would say this book does a much better job than many of them. I say this because the characters are constantly pushing for their own individual goals while we witness Tim’s journey and the many trials and tribulations he has to go through in the process.

On the Run, ironically enough, could feel a bit fast in some portions of the story but, all in all, is an excellent book that deals with a lot of real struggles, has some very good writing, and it has all the right amount of characterization that any reader needs to thrive. I definitely recommend it.

About The Author Of On the Run

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, William Shaw, RhD, taught English literature at NC State University in Raleigh, N.C.He authored numerous academic articles, two academic books, two screenplays, and one self-published book about his uncle’s experience in WWII (“Fellowship of Dust: Retracing the WWII Journey of Sergeant Frank Shaw”). He has been an editor on two literary journals – Milton Quarterly & Donne Variorum, and currently opinion columns for “The Pilot,” an award-winning regional newspaper, and produces his own digital newsletter for” Substack” — “Wormwood: Reflections on an Endangered Nation.

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