Book Review: Run, Rebel  

by Manjeet Mann

Published by Penguin

Amber has an abusive, drunken father and a terrified mother who works in a menial, low paid job. Neither of her illiterate parents speak English.

An arranged marriage, like her sister’s, will be Amber’s future rather than the higher education she craves. And she won’t be allowed to continue the “immodest” competitive running at which she excels. She is deeply frightened and torn between desperately wanting to speak out and fear of the outcome.

She has supportive friends in David (whom she fancies but culturally isn’t supposed to) and Tara, but neither understands her problems for a long time. And all this expressed in a series of fast paced poems using a whole range of forms including acrostics. Most are a very powerful evocation of Amber’s inner voice. Occasionally, on slightly different coloured paper for clarity we hear from Mum and Amber’s sister, Ruby, to widen the viewpoint.

It’s a novel about the experience of women living in a very repressive situation. But it’s not called “Run, Rebel” for nothing because that’s exactly what Amber finally does and is.

Eventually we realise that there is more to Mum than first appeared and come to understand whence Amber’s strength comes. And the character of Jas, Ruby’s enlightened, kind, encouraging husband, counterbalances Dad and leaves the reader understanding that things don’t have to be as they were in Amber’s violent home. 

It’s moving and often shocking, but there’s a strong sense of goodness and justice prevailing at the end.

Review by Susan Elkin