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The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
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The Memory of Running (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Ron McLarty

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1,697634,203 (3.81)48
Member:Ireadthereforeiam
Title:The Memory of Running
Authors:Ron McLarty
Info:Penguin Books (2005), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:grief, relationships, mental illness, travel, friendship

Work details

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty (2004)

  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 (60)  Swedish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (63)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Very funny book. It is sweet and picaresque and almost reminds me of Forest Gump or Huckelberry Finn the way Smithie Ide views the world--paranoid modern day America that is--through the eyes of a guy with a big heart and an even bigger enourmous gut as he cycles across America. ( )
  Gary_Power | Jul 10, 2016 |
I read this a couple of years ago and doubled my reading speed, so that I could find out what happens next. I have just re-purchased as I gave my original copy to a receptionist who was kind to me (I hope she enjoyed it.) I'll come back and tell you if it was as good as I remembered! ( )
  .cris | May 31, 2016 |
This book tries to be what Confederacy of Dunces already does infinitely better. Go read Confederacy of Dunces...now! ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
I love this story so much I read it twice. Since I work in a library that is very unusual for me. Wonderful characters. ( )
  dogear360 | Feb 20, 2016 |
Recorded book, read by the author
3.5***

Smithson Ide (Smithy) is 43, a self-described loser working at a toy factory, friendless, a chain-smoker, a drunk and seriously overweight (279 lbs), when a family tragedy pushes him to DO something. Coming across his old Raleigh bicycle in a corner of his parents’ garage, Smithy starts pedaling … and then keeps pedaling on a journey across America and towards a new life.

The novel is told in alternating chapters – one giving the background on the Ide family, especially Smithy’s older sister Bethany who suffers from mental illness; the next chronicling the present-day happenings as Smithy bikes from Rhode Island to California. I seem to be reading a number of books lately that use this device, and it’s a difficult one to pull off successfully. McLarty does a pretty good job of it here. The change in perspective is abrupt, but not jarring and I found it easy to follow these parallel stories.

I was a little confused about Norma – the girl next door who suffers a childhood accident that colors the relationship between the two families. She wasn’t as fully developed as I would have liked, and I didn’t really understand the attraction between her and Smithy at first.

Of course, I didn’t really understand Smithy, either. He’s a complicated character and difficult to get to know. He, himself, frequently peppers his own conversations (or thoughts) with “I don’t know.” He is truly a man who has lost himself and his slow reawakening is the whole purpose of this novel. There were times when I wondered if Smithy also suffered from the same sort of mental illness that struck Bethany, but I still grew to like him, and was cheering him on as he made the quest to retrieve his sister.

Along his journey Smithy comes across a variety of characters that help or try to thwart him and express humanity at its best (and sometimes worst). These cameo appearances are brief but well-drawn, and I wish McLarty would write a few more novels about some of them: Father Benny, Carl Greenleaf, Kate and Roger.

McLarty does a fine job of narrating the audio version. His pacing is good, and his style of reading aloud works well for this first-person narrative.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (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.
First words
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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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