FIRST CHAPTER | Dolly Parton’s first novel: Big dreams and faded jeans in Run, Rose, Run

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The cover of Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson.
The cover of Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson.

BOOK: She's a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her. She's also on the run...This is the first chapter of Dolly Parton’s first novel, Run, Rose, Run, written with bestselling author James Patterson. The country music superstar is widely beloved, not just for her music but for her charity work – such as spending her own money on encouraging children to read and providing books to schools. Parton (76) is also releasing an album of the same name, consisting of 12 original songs inspired by the book.


AnnieLee had been standing on the side of the road for an hour, thumbing a ride, when the rain started falling in earnest.

Wouldn’t you know it? she thought as she tugged a gas station poncho out of her backpack. It just figures.

She pulled the poncho over her jacket and yanked the hood over her damp hair. The wind picked up, and fat raindrops began to beat a rhythm on the cheap plastic. But she kept that hopeful smile plastered on her face, and she tapped her foot on the gravel shoulder as a bit of a new song came into her head.

Is it easy? she sang to herself.

No it ain’t

Can I fix it?

No I cain’t

She’d been writing songs since she could talk and making melodies even before that. AnnieLee Keyes couldn’t hear the call of a wood thrush, the plink plink plink of a leaky faucet, or the rumbling rhythm of a freight train without turning it into a tune.

Crazy girl finds music in everything — that’s what her mother had said, right up until the day she died. And the song coming to AnnieLee now gave her something to think about besides the cars whizzing by, their warm, dry occupants not even slowing down to give her a second glance.

Not that she could blame them; she wouldn’t stop for herself, either. Not in this weather, and her probably looking no better than a drowned possum.

When she saw the white station wagon approaching, going at least twenty miles under the speed limit, she crossed her fingers that it would be some nice old grandpa pulling over to offer her a lift. She’d turned down two rides back when she thought she’d have her choice of them, the first from a chain-smoking lady with two snarling Rottweilers in the back seat, the second from a kid who’d looked higher than Mount Everest.

Now she could kick herself for being so picky. Either driver would have at least gotten her a few miles up the road, smelling like one kind of smoke or another.

The white wagon was fifty yards away, then twenty-five, and as it came at her she gave a friendly, graceful wave, as if she was some kind of celebrity on the shoulder of the Crosby Freeway and not some half-desperate nobody with all her worldly belongings in a backpack.

The old Buick crawled toward her in the slow lane, and AnnieLee’s waving grew nearly frantic. But she could have stood on her head and shot rainbows out of her Ropers and it wouldn’t have mattered. The car passed by and grew gradually smaller in the distance. She stomped her foot like a kid, splattering herself with mud.

Is it easy? she sang again.

No it ain’t

Can I fix it?

No I cain’t

But I sure ain’t gonna take it lyin’ down

It was catchy, all right, and AnnieLee wished for the twentieth time that she had her beloved guitar. But it wouldn’t have fit in her pack, for one thing, and for another, it was already hanging on the wall at Jeb’s Pawn.

If she had one wish — besides to get the hell out of Texas — it was that whoever bought Maybelle would take good care of her.

The distant lights of downtown Houston seemed to blur as AnnieLee blinked raindrops from her eyes. If she thought about her life back there for more than an instant, she’d probably stop wishing for a ride and just start running. 

Dolly Parton and James Patterson
Dolly Parton and James Patterson. (Photo: Courtesy of Dolly Parton)

First published in The Penguin Post. Read more here. 

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