On one side of Ann Patchett’s (mostly) graceful fifth novel, Run (Harper), is a tangle of children and mothers, black and white, rich and poor. On the other is Bernard Doyle, widowed father and onetime mayor of Boston, doing his best to sort it all out. Unfolding over one 24-hour period during a whiteout, Run starts out full of drama and conflict, as the various players are thrown together by a freak car accident, but quiets down as the snow falls, settling into an almost dreamlike study of the question of nature versus nurture. It’s not always successful: the pivotal character Kenya, an 11-year-old girl, is preposterously self-possessed, and critical expository details are delivered by an anesthesia-induced hallucination/ghost, a mechanism that felt like less of a cop-out on Grey’s Anatomy. But on balance Patchett’s calm, steady prose results in a gentle fable about a world where the distance from Harvard to the projects is obliterated by a blanket of snow. a Mon 10/15, 6 PM, Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, 312-255-3700. —Martha Bayne