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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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1,588544,590 (3.79)44
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)

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    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 (51)  Swedish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Not a monumental book, but one with momentous, the sort that keeps you wondering what will happen to this very average guy hit but a very un-average situation. As the story unfold, Smithy, who by most standards is leading a pretty mediocre life, propels himself into a new experience. Stunned by the sudden deaths of his parents in a car accident, and then learning of the death of his troubled, unstable, mentally ill sister, who disappeared decades ago, Smithy climbs aboard his old bike and pedals off, to ride out his grief, and the drunken stupor in which he finds himself. Considering he is physically out of condition, vastly overweight, and in the aforementioned drunken state, which is not an unusual occurrence, this feat is even more unlikely. The story plays between present day, and the backstory of a family trying to cope with the backlash of mental illness.

The other thing remarkable about this book is the author, who once you look at the back flap, you will realize you know as a character actor. ( )
  bookczuk | Apr 29, 2014 |
I enjoyed it though the character was not very bright and was taken advantage of. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
READ IT - It resonates

I don’t remember where I picked up this book, and when I finally started reading, I was a bit put off by the constant derogatory remarks on Smithy Ide’s weight. Even Smithy gets into the act.

But as I read on, I realized that Smithy is full of self-loathing but doesn’t seem to realize where that self-destructive attitude originates. As circumstances start off horribly wrong for him, he begins a journey that he doesn’t understand. Just a need to propel himself across the street on his old bicycle, a once beloved object of his young mastery. It’s a rough start but as he awkwardly progresses, memories of his youth return and in the quiet recesses of his mind, he comes to terms with the terrible consequences of growing up in a “damaged” family. Where all the focus is set upon his beloved and mentally ill sister.

How much can a family give of themselves to try to save someone so troubled? Apparently, if you’re not careful, you can lose it all and still not make a difference.

I read this book some 3 months back and it lingers with me still. I believe it to be one of the most loving, confusing, life-affirming novels I have read in a very long time. Quite worth the bumpy bike ride! ( )
  catscritch | Feb 7, 2014 |
This is one of the best books I've ever read in my life. Seriously. So well done, I have no advice for improvement. I listened to the audio version read by the author himself. He is a professional actor and playwright. Excellent job. It's just slam dunk perfect. Maybe it's the inspiration for the The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, or maybe inspired a bit by Forest Gump, all good stuff. I loved this book and all it's goofy flawed characters. It will stay with me for a long, long time. Long live the honest listeners and non judgmentals of our world. 5 stars and highly recommended,
. ( )
  erinclark | Jul 14, 2013 |
I found this book to be very entertaining, though overly depressing at points. I would recommend it to anyone in need of an uplifting story that shows no matter how far down the road of life you are you still have time to change and set things right. ( )
  MaryAnn12 | Apr 4, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (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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Epigraph
Dedication
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:32 -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 6 descriptions

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