cover image A Time to Run

A Time to Run

Barbara Boxer, with Mary-Rose Hayes. . Chronicle, $24.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-5043-8

The three-term senator from California—newly and handily re-elected in 2004—offers a debut novel to relate "a story I had long wanted to tell." Aspiring political activist Josh Fischer and aspiring journalist Greg Hunter are best friends and roommates at 1970s Berkeley; Josh is dark, sensitive and liberal; Greg is blond, gregarious and leans right. When the two meet Ellen Downey, a petite redhead with a steely determination to make the world a better place, romantic entanglements ensue, with Ellen ultimately marrying Josh shortly after graduation. Josh runs for political office, Ellen heads a mentoring program for at-risk kids, and Greg, married to a wealthy socialite but still in the picture, works as a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle . When Josh dies during his Senate campaign, Ellen assumes his candidacy and scores an upset victory; the book opens on the eve of a vote regarding a controversial Supreme Court nominee, with Greg appearing in Ellen's office holding incendiary documents that could alter the course of history—or level her career. All of this is by-the-numbers stuff, but Boxer brings been-there nuance to the backbiting, hazardous personal disclosures and naked power mongering of California and Washington politics. (Nov.)