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The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
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The Memory of Running (2004)

by Ron McLarty

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1,811705,824 (3.81)50
  1. 00
    The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (julienne_preacher, MurphyWaggoner)
    MurphyWaggoner: Both are quests of men seeking to break through a self-imposed shell of isolation to find healing and do so by setting out on a trek across country.
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English (66)  Swedish (2)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
I really wanted to like this book. It was recommended to me by a close friend and Stephen King wrote an entire page why you should read it. These things got in my way:
I didn't like the main character. In fact, I thought that he was weak and bland. He had an almost weird obsession with his sister's beauty and her memory. I often wondered if he had a low IQ or was as schizophrenic as his sister.

I also couldn't sympathize with his sister. I know that she was mentally ill and we were supposed to, at some level, sympathize with her, but she was unlikable. Even when she wasn't having a psychotic break.

Come to think of it, I didn't love ANY of the characters.

Ron McLarty has an obsession with breasts and I really didn't feel like reading about one more pair of them. Yes, I realize that his CHARACTER was supposed to be obsessed with breasts but, after being introduced to each female character's chest, I decided it was Ron who has the problem. It would seem that he also has a problem with police.

Finally, there was an incident of animal abuse that was never properly brought to a close. It was extremely disturbing. I started skimming the book after that so that I could be done with it.

Good plot idea. So so execution.

( )
  blogbrarian | Jul 16, 2018 |
Every decade seems to produce a novel that captures the public's imagination with a story that sweeps readers up and takes them on a thrilling, unforgettable ride.

Ron McLarty's The Memory of Running is this decade's novel. By all accounts, especially his own, Smithson "Smithy" Ide is a loser. An overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk, Smithy's life becomes completely unhinged when he loses his parents and long-lost sister within the span of one week.

Rolling down the driveway of his parents' house in Rhode Island on his old Raleigh bicycle to escape his grief, the emotionally bereft Smithy embarks on an epic, hilarious, luminous, and extraordinary journey of discovery and redemption. (From the publisher.)
  JESGalway | May 22, 2018 |
Not a polished effort, but the story has merit. One strength: This story faithfully captures the "Oh crap what now" weariness of dealing with a mentally ill relative. This is a definite road book, and you will be reading lots of details about incidental characters as Smithy bikes cross-country, meeting all kinds of people. The book does a good job of capturing vulnerabilities and showing how people find stability in the midst of pain. ( )
  LaurelPoe | Dec 25, 2017 |
Sadly, my month-long streak of reading really good books has come to an end with "The Memory of Running." This meandering ramble lost me at page 30. I'm done. ( )
  dcmr | Jul 4, 2017 |
The book tells the story of the Ide family: Mom, Pop, their son Smithy, and older sister Bethany, a sweet girl whose mental problems (unspecified but seemed schizophrenic to me) were a constant source of stress and sadness for her family. The story is told (in first person) by Smithy when he is 43 years old, and Bethany has been missing for 20 years. Smithy was a skinny boy who’d run everywhere when he was a kid (you’re a runner, Smithy). Unfortunately, as an adult he’d become an obese, chain-smoking, friendless alcoholic with a boring, dead-end job. In other words, a pathetic loser. He isn’t even particularly kind, or intelligent. But even so, you feel yourself feeling sorry for him, and pulling for him.

As the story starts, Mom and Pop have been in a severe car accident and have been taken to separate hospitals. Smithy shuttles back and forth between the two remaining members of his family only to lose them both after a few days’ vigil. He returns home and makes funeral arrangements, and Norma shows up at the funeral. Norma was a childhood friend who became a paraplegic as a child when a car hit her. Norma had a life-long crush on Smithy, who mostly saw her as an annoying girl, and he avoided seeing her after the accident that bound her to a wheelchair. (I told you he wasn’t particularly kind.) But Norma shares the devastation that Smithy feels, because she loved his family as her own.

After the funeral Smithy discovers a letter among Pop’s unopened mail that informs him that a deceased indigent in Los Angeles has been identified as his sister Bethany. Unstrung and deeply in grief, he finds himself in the garage, where he’s confronted with his childhood bicycle. He gets on the bike, still wearing the blue suit from the funeral, and pedals away.

I’ll not say more, except to say that Smithy goes on a quest, finds himself in different situations, meets many people, and calls Norma regularly, until she becomes almost a touchstone in his life. Interspersed with scenes from his quest are scenes from the Ide family’s past, and lead up to Bethany’s final permanent separation from the family that loved her.

I hate overstating a book and although it wasn’t perfect, I really loved the story and characters that were created here. And I really hated that it had to end.
( )
  dorie.craig | Jun 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
Although Mr. McLarty's book is not wildly original, it has a generic likability and the upward trajectory of a shy guy's recovery from loneliness. Its itinerary is also wry enough to sustain interest, as when Bethany winds up in a hippie commune that believes in the sanctity of vegetables. Smithy's actual bike trip is punctuated by encounters with people and books (his revived interest in reading provides a small, amusing subplot) that affirm its underlying faith in human nature. For all the hardships and wrong turns it describes, "The Memory of Running" amounts to a string of happy accidents. In this story, which has a dark side but no real shadows, even being hit by a pickup truck can turn out to be a life-affirming vignette.
added by SimoneA | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Jan 3, 2005)
 
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In loving memory of Diane Tesitor McLarty, wife, mother, friend, artist, who wrote the books of Zachary, Lucas, and Matthew. Masterpieces all.
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My parents' Ford wagon hit a concrete divider on U.S. 95 outside Biddeford, Maine, in August 1990.
Quotations
Sometimes there are moments when a person has to make a decision, as opposed to just letting things just happen. A person then has to happen himself. I have never done this. Life bounced off me, and bounced me, and now it was going to bounce me to death. (p. 77)
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Book description
Every decade seems to produce a novel that captures the public's imagination with a story that sweeps readers up and takes them on a thrilling ride, unforgettable ride. McLarty's Memory of Running is this decade's novel. By all accounts, especially his own, Smithson, "Smithy" Ide is a loser. An overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk, Smithy's life becomes completely unhinged when he loses his parents and long-lost sister withing the span of one week. Rolling down the driveway of his parents' house in Rhode Island on his own Raleigh bicycle to escape his grief, the emotionally bereft Smithy embarks on an epic, hilarious, luminous, and extraordinary journey of discovery and redemption.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143036688, Paperback)

Ron McLarty has joined the ranks of writers of the quirky hero with The Memory of Running. His hero, Smithy Ide, is in the grand tradition of Ignatius J. Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces and Quoyle of The Shipping News. What these gentlemen have in common is their lumpen-loser looks, their outsider status and their general befuddlement about the way the world works and their place in it. Smithy rises above them because of his self-effacing nature, his great capacity for love, his inability to show it and his endless willingness to forgive.

Smithy is a 279-pound, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, 43-year-old misfit who works in a G.I. Joe factory putting arms and legs on the action heroes. (How did McLarty come up with that?) He is also the most beguiling anti-hero to come into view in a long, long time. McLarty, an award-winning actor and playwright best known for his many appearances on TV in Law & Order, Sex and the City, The Practice, and Judging Amy, has added another star to his creative crown with this novel.

The first sentence of the book is: "My parents' Ford station wagon hit a concrete divider on U.S. 95 outside Biddeford, Maine, in August 1990." This tragic accident eventually claims both their lives. It is on the day of their funeral that Smithy finds a letter to his father about Bethany, his beloved and deeply troubled sister, stating that, "Bethany Ide, 51, died from complications of exposure... and she has since that time been in the Los Angeles Morgue West." Beautiful Bethany, given to taking off her clothes in public places, holding impossible poses for long periods of time, responding to voices that only she can hear, and disappearing for no known reason. This time, she has been gone for many years and now Smithy knows that she died destitute and alone. When he reads the letter, he is drunk, grief-stricken and, despite a house full of people, he is alone. He goes out to the garage to smoke and have another drink and spies his old Raleigh bicycle. He sits on it, flat tires and all, wheels it to the end of the driveway--and--Smithy doesn’t know it yet, but he is going to ride a bicycle from Maine to Los Angeles to claim his sister's remains.

On the road he meets the good, the bad, and the really bad. He frequently calls Norma, the Ides' across-the-street neighbor, confined to a wheelchair for years, and always in love with him. He has never acknowledged nor returned her ardor, but he starts to count on her friendship during his travels. Their conversations are sweet and revelatory. McLarty has done a superb job of showing us who Smithy is and who he is becoming. It's a wonderful story told with great poignancy and humor. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:31 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

By all accounts, especially his own, Smithson "Smithy" Ide is a loser. An overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk, Smithy's life becomes completely unhinged when he loses his parents and long-lost sister within the span of one week. Rolling down the driveway of his parents' house in Rhode Island on his old Raleigh bicycle to escape his grief, the emotionally bereft Smithy embarks on an epic, hilarious, luminous, and extraordinary journey of discovery and redemption.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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