Book Review of NATHAN’S RUN by John Gilstrap

[This post is the eighth in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

“That’s why I’m gonna keep running.” A review of Nathan’s Run by John Gilstrap

Nathan’s Run
Author: John Gilstrap
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright 1996 by John Gilstrap
ISBN: 0060173858
Formant: Ebook
​Genre: Thriller

Nathan Bailey wants somebody that he can trust.  By the time he is twelve he has been orphaned and left in the care of an abusive uncle, who, after learning that he won’t be able to get his hands on Nathan’s inheritance, casts his nephew into the Kafka-esque world of the juvenile justice system. Within the walls of the Juvenile Detention Center’s ‘Crisis Unit’  Nathan kills a guard in self-defense, and, seeing no better option, runs.  He gets his bearings while hiding out in a house belonging to a family that is away from home.

The severe reality of his situation dawns on Nathan  when he hears grown-ups passing judgement on him, first on cable news, and then on a Nationally syndicated radio show hosted by a woman befittingly known as “The Bitch.” The youngster becomes the most famous fugitive in the country when he calls in to the radio program and iterates his side of the story.  Knowing that he can’t stay put forever, Nathan steals a car and keeps running.  The Nation is divided, half believe that Nathan is a cold-blooded killer, and half believe he is a victim of circumstance. The pressure is on for both Nathan (who is running towards the Canadian Border for his life) and for the police force trying to capture him (with their reputation on the line.)

The perspective of “Nathan’s Run” alternates between the young fugitive and the detective in charge of finding him, Warren Michaels, whose own tragic past makes the case difficult and personal.  Michaels is torn between his belief in Nathan’s innocence and his duty to apprehend him.

“Nathan’s Run” was the first of many bestsellers by Author John Gilstrap, whose most recent publication is “Final Target (A Jonathan Grave Thriller)” which is the ninth book in the Jonathan Grave series.  Through a swift high-stakes plot, sparse fiery prose, and emotionally compelling characterization, Gilstrap has created a page-turner with a critical eye on the harsh, politicized treatment of criminals, especially young ones. Readers will find themselves emotionally invested: feeling the triumph of Nathan’s successes and cringing with defeat at each of his blunders,  hoping for a happy ending that seems more and more unlikely and far away.

By Charlie Cain

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