Hoffman impressively evokes the combination of nihilism, idealism, rootlessness, psychic and economic necessity, lust and love that might set a young person adrift. Unlike the runaway heroes of many queer narratives, these characters are not cast out but looking to get lost; put another way, they are running away from, not toward, a sense of belonging ... We watch them revel in their own abandon; we watch them scrounge and scheme, living on as little as possible; we watch them drink and drink, and love ... The Athens on display here is the so-called underbelly: hazy, sticky, seedy, a little claustrophobic, explosively violent, and peopled with rebels and runaways of all kinds, idealists, revolutionary operatives, con men, wayward young scholars, squatters — but the focus, hazed with nostalgia, is always on the three ... Although the first half of the book can be frustratingly withholding of information about the circumstances of the tragedy, the plot gets moving in the second half, detailing a dissolution complicated and interesting enough in its political and ethical implications to compensate ... In Bridey and Milo, Hoffman has created memorable antiheroes: tough and resourceful, scarred, feral and sexy. The book and the characters refuse to conform to type, and Running, like all good outlaw literature, takes sharp aim at the contemporary culture’s pervasive willingness to do so.
What happens to all these players is revealed in a kaleidoscope of flashbacks and flash-forwards that the author manipulates for maximum character development and suspense. Ms. Hoffman writes like a dream—a disturbing, emotionally charged dream that resolves into a surprisingly satisfying and redemptive vision.
...[a] haunting and wistful novel ... As the plot intercuts between Milo’s present-day and Bridey’s pre-internet 1980s, Hoffman’s portraits show just how revolutionary it nowadays is to live outside the norms of commerce ... sometimes guilty of presenting secondary characters as sketches ... An interest in violence — particularly the political and institutional variety — echoes through much of Hoffman’s work. But here, the main actors are street kids, and Hoffman writes about their makeshift family with deep affection for the outsider.
In leaving apparent holes or unanswered questions in her layered story, Hoffman is fearless and trusting of her readers, and her precise prose captures the novel’s many settings—Greece, Washington State, New York City—and her characters’ feelings and actions, vividly.
The novel, sticky with the stultifying heat of Athens, oozes backward and forward in time and place: gritty 1980s Athens, Bridey’s troubled childhood in Washington, and contemporary New York City, where Milo, now a successful poet, is in residence at the New School, drowning his sorrows in a never-ending stream of Four Loko. Crisp and immediate, the New York segments are a welcome contrast to the action in Greece, which is so beautiful and atmospheric that it sometimes feels as though it’s happening behind a screen. A haunting novel, original and deeply sad.