Being contracted to fight in high-profile boxing matches opens doors for Danny, one of which sends him literally running away from the life he has built. Robert travels regularly on a yearly pilgrimage to Pamplona for the bull running festival seeking a thrill to break the monotone of his idyllic life. A chance meeting between men of very different lives sends them both on the most unexpected trip.
A dreary afternoon finds Robert offering a soaked Danny a ride. The two have never met before, but they forge a friendship on the unspoken understanding of need. The need to seek change. Be it a change of pace or a change in perspective, they both unwittingly embark on a journey that initially is set for a run with the bulls, but turns in a race that ends with each man facing himself. What starts as a simple act of kindness evolves into a longer trip of self discovery and disparaging revelations.
The sparse, minimalist style of the book makes it a quick read rife with intrigue and suspense which slowly builds up. Told in a collection of flashbacks from Danny’s life, the story paints a compelling story of inner conflict which uncovers the life of a man that is not as simple as it seems. It is clear from the beginning that Danny is hiding something, while Robert is somewhat of an open book. The closer they get to Pamplona the closer we are to the truth of what each man is running from – the cobbled streets of Pamplona the stage for their unraveling.
Facing internal demons, dealing with dissatisfaction, anger, and remorse are all drawn out in a book that kept me tied till the last page. Jan Van Mersbergen hooks you on with the simplicity of his writing style while weaving a complicated web that draws you into a story plot that seems familiar. It is through the windows of Danny’s eyes that we witness the events that sometimes seem so familiarly boring to those that spurn intrigue. Yet, you feel a sort of comradery with him – reliving his success, love and betrayal. Facing the bulls that were running head on to him, looking into their eyes before finding your companion on the floor bleeding as he saves you from near death leaves you on the edge trying to get to that final page.
I had not initially thought that this book might be as interesting as it was, but I enjoyed reading through it. It was hard to put it down before reaching the last line. I recommend it to anyone who likes fiction. I have to admit, it is not often that I stumble on very well translate fiction, being as this was my first title from a Dutch author, I was happy that I was not let down.