SHOP THOUGHTS | Dolly Parton: An Appreciation


Dolly Parton recently published her first novel, written with the prolific bestselling author James Patterson, Run, Rose, Run on March 7.  It tells the story of AnnieLee Keyes, a young aspiring country musician, who shows up in Nashville with a powerful voice and a mysterious past. When retired country music icon Ruthanna Ryder takes her under her wing, AnnieLee’s star begins to rise.  But her past catches up with her and threatens to ruin everything.

I’ve been listening to the audiobook, which features a full cast, for the pleasure of hearing Dolly Parton voice the part of Ruthanna Ryder.  (Kelsea Ballerini is also terrific as AnnieLee.)  I don’t know why I was initially surprised at the impact Parton’s performance has—Dolly Parton has been performing on stage basically her whole life and she’s an award-winning actress.  She brings heart and authenticity to the role.  The story is full of insider details about the Nashville music scene and life in the limelight and you can hear the truthfulness in Parton’s voice.

Is there no limit to Parton’s wonderfulness?  Social media reports indicate she shows only kindness to strangers and service people.  She has donated millions of books to children through her nonprofit, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

No matter your feelings about James Patterson’s books, you can’t help but appreciate his sheer output and the fact that he, too, like Parton, uses his power for good, supporting children’s literacy programs, in addition to other causes.  (Last year I received one of the holiday bonuses he’s been giving annually to booksellers.)  I’ve always wondered what his collaborations look like, how much does he write and how much do the co-authors write.

In an interview posted on her website, Parton says, “I told him [James Patterson] I couldn’t be involved in anything that I’m not personally very involved in. I don’t want to just put my name on something and it not be something I’ve really contributed to.”

I loved watching the show Nashville for the insight into the songwriting process—the creative process—and you get a little bit of that in Run, Rose, Run, too.  Characters are constantly composing on the back of napkins and receipts, noodling at odd hours of the day and night, sharing and collaborating with one another.  I mostly think of writing books as a solitary endeavor.  But of course, creating a book also involves editors and copyeditors and designers.  I suppose if anyone knows anything about collaborating on a book it would be James Patterson, who has penned over 200 books and his other co-writers include Bill Clinton, J.D. Barker, and Candice Fox. Run, Rose, Run reads seamlessly and breathlessly and benefits from the sum of its contributors.  What a gift Dolly Parton is to the music world and what a gift she is to the book world.

Hannah Harlow is owner of The Book Shop, an independent bookstore in Beverly Farms.  Harlow writes biweekly recommendations for us.  See more of what she recommends reading at

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