The Memory of Running

 
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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

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.

Customer Reviews:

  • An excellent read
    One of the best books I've read in quite a long time. Funny, sad, and increasingly exciting, building up to the ending I wanted it to have, although I had my doubts on the way...more info
  • A really good read
    Memory of Running is a really good read. So sad in many places: family, Smithy, Bethany, Norma. His memories seem to be in the '50s and I could totally relate to them. I feel as if I took part in his adventures (and misadventures). Got bogged down in some places with dialogue between him and Norma but give it a 9. ...more info
  • Now THIS is quirky
    This was a family book club pick, and I'm so glad I had the chance to read it. Mclarty treats the reader to an engrossing "quest" novel about coming to terms with the past and self redemption. While the "quest" novel isn't anything new, the characters in this novel were truly unique.

    I rooted for Smithy Ide as he started off as an emotionally stunted, overweight slob and transformed himself, peeling his ugly and defensive layers, to reveal a socially stunted, yet earnest and well intentioned all around good human being. I appreciated the fact that during Smithy's transformation journey, Mclarty didn't insult the reader by changing EVERYTHING about him. He still kept some of Smithy's endearing qualities intact, such as his social insecurities. This made the character more believable.

    I was enraptured by Bethany, Smithy's unpredictable schizophrenic sister. Mclarty gives us a more developed character by showing us her moments of health and clarity instead of exploiting the "oddness" of her mental illness. Because we get both sides of the story, I find it makes her much more sympathetic and heart breaking.

    The heaviness you get off of Norma is intense. I could feel the pain, desparation, and confusion thinly veiled through a false pride she carried in her heart all those years as the family she felt so close to seemed to easily let her slip out of their life so thoughtlessly after her tragic setback.

    Smithy's parents even drew me in, and they aren't as much of a focus in the novel. By all appearances, they portray a stereotype of a typical "American" mom and pop who watch baseball and bake apple pies. Behind closed doors, we get a glimpse of the struggles they face with their daughter's seemingly untreatable and deteriorating condition.

    As a frequent reader, I like a book with characters that make sense. I like characters, not caricatures. I found that with this book, and it took me on an emotional "bike ride." I laughed at the hair brained situations Smithy pathetically ended up in, I was heartbroken by the tortured relationship he had with Bethany, I could feel the discomforting awkwardness between Smithy and Norma. I highly recommend you get to know Smithy Ide and his family, too. ...more info
  • Dullness, thy name is Smithy
    In spite of its enthusiastic reviews (boy, it really helps to have Stephen King as a friend!), The Memory of Running is a truly boring book. Basically, this is your classic American "road novel", in which the protagonist embarks upon a transformative journey, usually to California, in order to discover himself. In this case, Smithy, an overweight alcoholic who is going nowhere in his life, suddenly loses both parents and his sister in one tragic week. Somehow, he finds himself on a bicycle traveling to California (surprise!), meeting the good, the bad, and the ugly along the way. (Their purpose, I'm guessing, is to provide Smithy with fascinating, life-altering experiences, and to give reviewers the opportunity to use the word "quirky.") Smithy loses weight, gains a beard, gets some beads, falls in love with the wheelchair-bound girl next door (by phone), and finds his dead sister. (That part was easy, since she wasn't even remembering running.)

    Basically, McLarty ran out of ideas somewhere in the first sixty pages of this book. Smithy travels, but he doesn't go anywhere. He was just as inarticulate, simple-minded and juvenile (let's hear it for big boobs!) at the end of the book as he was at the start. The secondary characters were equally as vapid. The dialogue throughout the novel was awkward, stilted and unnatural, and McLarty's (blessedly) brief forays into lyricism were positively painful. If McLarty had even a smidgen of talent, he might have made this book into something other than a hackneyed, dull, and totally uninteresting read. Wannabe writers who can't put a sentence together, let alone a novel, should really consider switching to a career in TV acting....more info
  • I flat out loved it
    One of my favorite books is Traveler, another McLarty novel. Memory of Running is just as good if not better. The main character wasn't likable to me, but it didn't seem to matter. In fact, I didn't like most of the characters, and that didn't seem to matter either. They were all believable, even Smithy whose elegant written words didn't fit his shallow and word-starved character. I think that's a testament to McLarty's ability to tell a good story, plus it proves his writing prowess. I really liked this book and hated for it to end. That's the best compliment I can give to any book....more info
  • You're in for a treat
    Back when I published a weekly newsletter, I included an Associated Press article about this guy. Now I'm just leaning on my memory. He wrote the book, and wasn't able to find a publisher but somehow managed to record an audiobook version. Twenty or so years later, Stephen King was hit by a van. While in the hospital, he heard the audiobook and called it "the best book you'll never read." Then I think publishers beat a path to the author's door.

    What I see here is an excellent example of why the business-driven publishing model sucks. It's an excellent book, but if I give you a plot summary and a sales pitch, you won't see what's good about it. Smithy Ide is one of the most original protagonists you'll ever encounter, the author has a wonderfully understated and quirky wit, his way with words is a marvel.

    So yes, it's a great book. I'm damn pleased I read it. Stephen King said it's great, and you know we can trust Stephen King. But it's hell to review. So let's try this. Read the hype. Assume it's all true. Then go from there. I think this book's great, okay? ...more info
  • If you didn't like this book, I question what you consider a great read!
    I guess that it's always a person's choice to like or not like a book, and I realize that we all have different tastes in genres and authors. However, this book is absolutely one of the best that I have read for this type of novel. I worked for an educational software company that developed reading quizzes for K-12 reading levels, and, I had to read myriad books to either develop quizzes for them,or to rate what another writer wrote for the book. On average, I read approximatley 4-6 novels per week, and I have to say that this was by far one of the best modern novels that I have read from a very long and distinguished list. If you're not into a story of an average guy making a great comeback in life, than, I guess this book is not for you. But, if you enjoy a quality read about the depth and strength of the human spirit, this is one novel that you should not miss. I think the people who read Stephen King's magnificant review of this novel, are those who assume that this novel is in the vane of his. Not so. I hope not to offend Stephen King, but this book resides in a different, much more beautiful realm. Don't miss this one....more info
  • Just awful
    Had to read it for my book club, and hated it. A true downer, and badly written at that. Couldn't have cared less about the protagonist--was tough to finish. Should have been a short story....more info
  • One of my most favorite books
    I loved this book. It is such a great story.

    Smithy is every "gone to pot" neighbor, coworker or distant cousin you've ever had and joining him on his path to redemption is a trip you won't regret. His life is as screwed up or probably more screwed up than most and when we first meet him, he's rather gross--a fat chain-smoking drunk, no less.

    I didn't have much hope for Smithy as he began his journey, but he proved me wrong and his trip was quite the adventure.

    We might not have the same tragedies as Smithy--a mentally ill sister out there somewhere, a wheelchair-bound childhood neighbor/friend, or two recently deceased parents, but if we have suffered any loss at all (loved ones, innocence, youth??) we can certainly relate to what he's going through as he rides his bike across the country.

    This book is a keeper.




    ...more info
  • To each their own
    In spite of all the spoilers and critical pans you may come across on these pages, sometimes you just have to read the book and decide for yourself. Reading the reviews posted here, it is obvious that this book is not for everyone.
    I loved it.
    If you like to read, and you are always searching for your next great book, you should probably try this one. Maybe, like me, Steven King and Wally Lamb, you'll love it...if you are one of the minority who don't like it...so what? You lose an hour or two. It isn't garbage, it isn't offfensive or exploitational, it doesn't try to force a philosophy or religion down your throat. Give it a shot...the odds are you'll be happy you did!...more info
  • Bravo!
    A dark yet delightfully twisted story told with precision and honed into a masterpiece. Surely Mr. McLarty's work will not only withstand the test of time ... but become a beloved classic....more info
  • Ride, Smithy, Ride!
    Smithy Ide is Everyman.

    He's the sad, pathetic creature who wants to do right by everyone but can't even manage his own life. In his despair he has allowed himself to slide into a life of robotic behavior and become a fat, self-absorbed slob.

    On the same day his parents are killed in a highway accident he learns his beloved schizophrenic sister has died on the streets of California. That triple tragedy puts Smithy on his old Raleigh bike and a quest he doesn't fully understand as he pedals across the country from Rhode Island to California. Along the way, (cheered on by the paraplegic neighbor girl who has loved him for himself since childhood), Smithy sheds his self-absorption and pounds, meditates on memories, meets a host of characters-some good, some bad-and, finally, finds himself and the hope of a new life.

    McLarty, a veteran actor, said in an interview he wrote his first several novels for others and with dreams of publication. This novel he wrote for himself. It, too, might not have been published had Stephen King not heard an audio version. Had it not been published, we would all have been the losers.

    It's a marvelous book and I hope McLarty gives us many more.
    ...more info
  • Fond memory of this book
    When I think of good fiction, this is one of the few books that comes to mind immediately. I found myself taken away with Smithie on his journey as his present experiences conjure up his past memories and converge beautifully to the end. McLarty's characters were well developed and believable. I couldn't put the book down. It left me with lasting memories of a great story. This is one book I would read again in a few years when the memory fades. ...more info
  • Extraordinary
    Memory of Running is an extraordinary book with the best character building I have ever read. I began reading and felt I had discovered gold. As an author myself, I am in awe. It is attention-holding and powerful in the way only a truly well-written book can be. ...more info
  • A Nice Book...
    This is just the kind of book I want to go on forever.I wish I could have Smithy Ide as a friend!!!! The best thing I can say about this book is that I will keep it and read it again!...more info
  • boring, depressing, predictable
    I knew what was going to happen from start to finish EXCEPT Wiggy. I knew he would show up dead, but how was certainly a surprise. I feel badly that the only part of the book I enjoyed was waiting for a dog to show up dead. ...more info
  • One of the best in the genre
    In the genre of unusual characters who strike off on an unknown journey, this is one of the best. Great writing, wonderful thinking, superb characters, and superlative pacing make this one that you don't want to put down, but also want to sip one quirky chapter at a time. McLarty doesn't even let an idea get stale, but always has a surprise around every corner. The alternating chapters of Smithy Ide's past life from his upbringing and relationship with parents and beautiful sister, to the present journey from Rhode Island to California is handled surprising well for a method that commonly distracts. It doesn't here, as the alternations between past and present compliment each other very well. You come to cheer for Smithy and the characters in his life, as you recognize parts of your life and begin comparing what happens to him vs. what you've had happen in your life. This is an extremely good book, worthy of awards, and hopefully is the beginning of a long succession of books from Mr. McLarty....more info
  • Great change of pace....
    One of the highlights of browsing for books on Amazon.com is that it often leads you to books that you might never have found just walking through the aisle of your favotite bookstore. A fan of historical fiction, I can't remember the road that I took to find Ron McLarty's Memory of Running, but I can assure you it was worth the journey, and the book was a fun change of pace from the historical tomes I'm fond of.

    The protagonist, Smithson Ide is a likeable enough fellow that in a strange way reminded me of T.S. Garp and other John Irving characters: seemingly ordinary people who find themselves captured in an extraordinary world not of their own making. Chapters alternate between Ide's transcontinental bicycle ride -- an impromtu act devoid of planning -- and his reminiscence of the days of his youth when his life revolved around his beautiful but ill-fated sister Bethany.

    Mr. McLarty has written a well-paced, entertaining novel that is a pleasure to read and would be well-served as a film. Bravo....more info
  • A Review Of "The Memory Of Running" by Ron McLarty
    This excellent novel reminded me of The Lovely Bones, although it's completely different. Both start with death, with the protagonist working through their family and themselves dealing with it, then closure at the end of the story; however, The Lovely Bones' protagonist is a dead 14 year old. The Memory Of Running's protagonist is a chain-smoking, forty-three year old alcoholic with no life:

    "...people tended to form quick opinions of me when I stood there fat and drunk and cigarette-stained in front of them. Even reasonable people go for an immediate response. Drunk. Fat. A smoky-burned aroma."

    He rides across America on a bicycle, trying to come to terms with his life: his insane sister, dead parents, regrets, and how he got where he is. It's a painful ride at first (physically and emotionally), but his telling of his past and the people he meets on his journey helps him survive the journey. I'm making it sound sappy, but it isn't. The guy is a little nuts, but he has a great story to tell.

    The author writes well, making you feel not only for the main character, but everyone he writes about. He hits home sometimes:

    "You have to learn to look at someone you truly adore through eyes that really aren't your own. It's as if a person has to become another person altogether to be able to take a hard look. Good people protect people they love, even if that means pretending that everything is okay."

    Or:

    "...I was a loner who wished not to be alone. It's something I have thought about and thought about, and I now feel that at any given time there are a lot of lonely loners out there. We just don't understand the process of making some friends. The complicated format of friendship. It's not easy."

    Yeah, people who know me can see why those struck home, but don't let my admiration dissuade you: this is a funny, touching novel. It isn't a work of literature with a capital "L"; it's a good novel. It'll make you laugh, might make you cry, make you empathetic for the characters, and reminiscent about your past and life, giving you something to think about, although not in a deep way. You'll smile when you put the book down after reading a chapter or two. He tells a good story. ...more info
  • Great Book Club Book
    "Smithy" Ide is the kind of character who gets under your skin. At the start of the book I thought it would be so predictable that it would get boring. The author, however, has big plans for Smithy. His character descriptions are so direct and his writing so good that I felt as though Smithy was speaking to me - that doesn't happen very often. I did feel compassion for Smithy and cheered him on. Although some of the "incidents" along the way are somewhat far-fetched, I still liked the book. Bethany, Smithy's dead sister, also has a persona that one can almost feel. My only fault with this book was that it sort of petered out at the end; I guess I wanted a more dramatic finish.

    I would recommend this book for book clubs. I'd rate it a 3 for good writing.

    ...more info
  • What an awesome story!
    The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty is the best book I've read in a very, very long time. Actually, I listened to the book on the suggestion of a friend and am happy I did (the author narrated the audio book version). McLarty's story of the journey of Smithson Ide is a roller-coaster ride that comes full circle in the end. If possible, I highly suggest that interested readers get their hands on the audio version of this book, as McLarty gives voice to the characters in such a way that really captures their essence the way that only the author could provide. ...more info
  • Fun though predictable
    This is a very enjoyable book about a guy who somehow finds himself in the middle of events by chance, during an unlikely cross-country redemption trip on a bike. The author does a very good job at making you dislike the main character at the beginning, and as the book progressess you learn to accept him, feel compassion for him, and finally root for him. The book plays a lot with the preconceived judgements people make about others just by looks, or circumstances. The story becomes a little predictable after a while, and even though I knew how it was going to end, I wanted to go along for the ride... and it was a fun ride....more info
  • Like going on an interesting adventure with a really dull friend
    This book started off promising. All the characters were quirky which made learning about them both funny and interesting.

    However, the book fell flat about 3/4's of the way thorough..

    The main character spends the entire book on a journey, but he doesn't change or grow emotionally (except for a little at the end). I wanted him to finally take a stand for himself.

    Accused of incest, child molestation, robbery .. having a gun in his face .. none of this ever evoked any passion from him. It was all so anti-climactic, that I finally got tired of him. I figured any interesting story surrounding him would only result in a very uninteresting response from him.

    Wheelchair bound Norma: At first I felt sorry for her. But every time her character spoke, it was a downer. She was written with too many emotional issues. I started to dread her phone calls.

    Sister Bethany: This was the only character who changed throughout the story. As Bethany got progressively creepier, I started to feel anxious with every new passage that included her.

    The thing is, everyone was just so awful..

    The sister's doctors, the Count (though funny, he was mostly inappropriate), the police were mean to him, his old war buddy ended up badly, the truck driver had a tragic story .. it got to be stifling. I wanted someone uplifting to come along.

    This book could have been really good.
    There were plenty of great observations and experiences along the way through the book.

    I would sum it up this way:
    It was like going on an interesting adventure with a really dull friend. You'd go again, but you'd wanna go with someone else..







    ...more info
  • Overrated
    When Stephen King speaks, everyone listens.

    Stephen King wrote an article about 'the best book you'll never read'. It was apparently only avalable in audio book form and wasn't yet published in novel form. Stephen King raved that the protagonist, Smithy deserves a place among the Holden Caulfields and Huck Finns of literature.

    Well, after that, it was published and everyone went out to buy it. I myself got it from the library and read it in a week.

    It was good, but at the same time, forgettable. It follows two stories; Smithy's relationship with his insane sister when he was younger, and him now an overweight adult finding out she's dead traveling the country to get the body.

    The former is much better than the latter. His sister is both sad and funny at the same time. Its never boring and something of importance happens in almost each chapter.

    The latter for the most part is just him going different places and meeting different people. Sometimes they are interesting, other times they are boring and tend to drag. Smithy's an original character, I will admit. I don't think I've seen anything like him. But at the same time, I don't see him becoming a literary classic.

    I'm happy for the author that he finally got his book published so other people can see waht all the fuss is about. But I really think King was exaggerating with his praise, and he just wanted to see the book get published. Or maybe he really loved it.

    Its worth a read from the library, but not for buying and reading it again and again....more info
  • Predictable plot, but interesting voice
    I picked this up as an audiobook after seeing the Stephen King recommendation. I listened to it during some sleepless nights, and it's an easy listen, as the narration was quite well done, and did a good job in telling the story thru first person. The journey itself was hackney, as was the super predictable Norma. Norma's dialogs in particular I found to be annoying and almost a caricature of the character. The random people he met on his journey were somewhat repetitive, in the way how the good-natured Smithy is constantly being misjudged by his looks, and taken advantage of, with all such encounters resulted in some sort of redemption. However, on the positive side, Smithy's relationship with his sister Bethany was revealed slowly through memory, and I was captured by the tension in how it might turn out. Due partially to the Stephen King association, I had thought some dark secret will be revealed, which might have made the plot more interesting, but the simple redemption of the tale has a nice gentle flow that has its own rewards....more info
  • Wow!
    Enough has been said about this novel by others so I'm just going to say it is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's a story that will stick with me forever. Read it; you won't regret it!...more info
  • I loved this book so much I hardly know where to begin...
    It had a terrific premise and even better execution... Smithy in some ways reminded me of a less-socially-apt C. which may sound unkind, but Smithy is a noble character and quite heroic in his own way. In fact, if C. ever decides to read fiction, I will recommend this to him. Honestly, I would recommend this to anyone, really - it was that good. I sill can't get over the fact that the one episode of _Sex & the City_ that he was in was none other than my favorite episode, "Hot Child in the City" - what are the chances?! And the story of how this book got published (he couldn't find a publisher and ended up recording it himself as an audiobook that somehow Stephen King heard and pushed through his own publisher) is a great! All in all, I just loved this book and I sincerely hope he writes more!...more info
  • Read this book in one day.. till almost 2:00 am
    Since I got my Kindle, I've read more fiction than I ever did in hard print. Yesterday I read a Stephen King book of short stories, which I loved, and today I read this novel written by Ron McLarty who is an actor I enjoy but did not know he was that actor til I finished this book 5 minutes ago and looked him up on [...].

    Wonderful story! Very engrossing, took a half-hour to 'hook' me but then it just got better and better and better. Related to the bike journey as I did a similar one cross country when I turned 55 a few years back. Cried at the end of the story, but just for the 'release'.

    Thank you for writing this novel, Author McLarty! What an interesting person you must be. Thank you, amazon, for marketing the Kindle! Best [...] bucks I ever spent! Never would have read this book if I couldn't have instantly downloaded it to my kindle. Smart move, amazon.

    (Wondering how I'm gonna get up in 4 hours to do my mile swim, sigh. Had the same problem yesterday, too. Drat good writers!)

    ...more info
  • Could not finish it ....
    I tried, really hard. Writing a book is not just about putting words together, in any order ... I found myself rereading several sentences, and not able to make any sense of it. I even asked my husband to read some passages, thinking that maybe I was the one who did not get it, he couldn't either (he's a native English speaker, and I'm not). I seldom leave a book once I start it, even if I don't like it that much, but this was just impossible. After a painful 158 pages, I just decided that Mr McLarty was not doing it for me. Maybe the fact that the new Wally Lamb was waiting on my bedside table helped me in making my decision .... I was recommended this book by my sister who read it in French, I can only assume that the translation was better than the original.
    Added on March 29: I saw this book at the dollar store today .... ...more info
  • A great trip!
    A highly enjoyable travel log through a lost man's quest to find himself. A wonderful read....more info
  • Great book!
    Well this book may not be a literary masterpiece but it is none the less a wonderful book. If you've every felt a little lost in your own life I think you will find this book inspirational. ...more info
  • Magnificent characters!
    I love books that are chock full of rich characters. Books from authors like John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, etc. This is one of those books! Smithy Ide, his sister Bethany, her uncle Count and others will burn themselves into your memory. It was hard putting this book down and I was disappointed to be through with it. Highly recommended!!!...more info
  • Contrived and pathetic
    Smithy Ide is a dismal, twisted, overgrown adolescent whose ability to tell his own story is limited and irritating. If this were an actual memoir, an editor would have removed the many sentences ending with the phrase "and stuff", and also would have restricted the number of panting references to women's breasts. But this is a novel, written with the vocabulary and insight of a stupid, self-loathing buffoon whom the author no doubt thought would become another Ignatius J. Reilly. He does not come close.

    The book's secondary character, disappearing sister Bethany (a name which doesn't even register on the name popularity charts for the year she was supposed to be born), is one of the worst representations of mentally ill women in fiction, and the manners in which community, family and medical team attempt to deal with her behaviors are totally unrealistic. Even if we were being subjected to her adoring brother's faulty memories of the events, this would be forgivable, but to conclude that is to necessarily scrap the entire rest of the narrative.

    Which I recommend. I'm stunned that so many people -- and others I've spoken to -- think this is a great, important novel, and that McLarty is a talented writer. But then I remember how many people voted for George W. Bush. Twice!

    ...more info
  • Mediocre
    To be fair, I haven't finished this novel. It's not as if I have no free time, I do-- I just couldn't stay interested in the characters at all. Chapters here and there are well-written and drew me in, but the overall "quest" of the main character is boring and cliched, and there is nothing in the novel to make me like him. Right now I have no real reason to want to finish the book, other than to fill up moments of sheer boredom....more info
  • A Great Coming of Age Story--Wonderful!
    Ron McLarty's "The Memory of Running" is a must read. It keeps going back to this extremely over-weight man's childhood. At age 45, the man never married, and then his parents are killed in a car crash. A week later, he finds out that his only sibling, a sister, has died homeless in Los Angeles. The man then takes off on his bicycle to ride from New York to Los Angeles. He gives up drinking and smoking and starts eating right. It's a real page turner.
    There's also his memory of a girl in a wheelchair who loves him.
    You'll love this story!

    Also excellent is "The Traveler," by McLarty. Click here: Traveler...more info
  • Truly fresh and enjoyable
    My wife bought this book for me because I am "runner". She had no idea what the story was actually about. Without spending a lot of time going into great detail, I would have to say this was one of the most enjoyable, light - but yet thought provoking book I have read in some time. The simplicity of the story serves to accentuate nicely the personality of the main character and the problems and changes he encounters along his journey. This is one book I truly enjoyed and highly recommend....more info
  • A stunning prize of a novel
    This novel was so well written and the plot so compelling that I couldn't put it down. I was so struck by the fact that I, an avid reader, wasn't even familiar with Ron McLarty, the author. I cannot praise this book highly enough. It is a wondrous journey of redemption for a character who didn't even require redemption, except from his own shame. A great book!...more info
  • A Stephen King Favorite
    I was led to this novel by the extravagant praise of Stephen King. Odd, then, to read it and discover it to be so sweet, so inspiring, so "feel good" (cue sounds of violins swelling). About as far from ghoul-master King as you can get, in other words.

    That said, McLarty's quest book has much to offer -- a sad-sack protagonist who wins us over, a crazier-than-a-Bridgton-Maine-loon of a sister (who wins us over), a baseball-and-apple-pie mom and dad (who win us over), and an off-the-beaten-path setting of East Providence, Rhode Island (you guessed it -- which wins us over).

    Smithy Ide (named for the Ides of March?) marches across America, a 40-something, overweight alcoholic in search of his sister. He's on the run, caught between the first-chapter deaths of his parents and the disappearance of his sister. Through him, we meet all manner of people, strange and kind, from coast to coast. Roadie fans won't be disappointed, in other words, though I found some of the strangers-on-the-way's stories a tad directed and produced, as they say.

    McLarty uses a flashback device and goes back and forth, one chapter to the next, from Smithy's present-day cross-country quest to the sad saga of his sister growing up in Rhode Island with a "voice" in her head that drives her mad. Back and forth, mostly in short bursts, the chapters keep our attention, each story line intriguing in its own way.

    Ultimately, however, I felt the book went a bit long at 358 pages. Yes, McLarty manages to skirt the precipice falling into a pit of treacly sweet, and yes he gets away with some characters who push the envelope in the "suspension of disbelief" category, but still this novel managed to keep me turning pages until it was done and my curiosity satisfied. Alas, the ending does not require much guesswork. Part of me even wondered how this book has thus far escaped the Hallmark Hall of Fame's producers (the language could be cleaned up, Smithy's fascination with breasts deleted, and POOF, it's ready to go).

    Those caveats aside, I recommend the book because it's well-written and unique. Don Quixote on a 10-speed? And, changing gears, with a King-sized recommendation to boot? I'm glad I gave it a look-see and trust most other readers will agree. As contemporary novels go, this is a stellar outing that runs smoother and stronger than most......more info
  • Wonderful ride through life
    An odd name - Smithson - for an odd but likeable character. Smithson "Smithy" Ide, named after an old time ballplayer, is a wreck - overweight, alcoholic, dull job, no social life. His parents' death in an auto accident triggers a series of events and remembrances. Smithy finds his old bike and just starts riding, ultimately from Rhode Island to Los Angeles to recover the body of his homeless sister Bethany. As he travels, he recalls his past and that of schizophrenic Bethany, and falls in love by phone with his now paraplegic childhood pest Norma. Terrible accusations are made, Smithy gets battered and bruised, and yet he just bounces back. For a person who has given up on life, Smithy perseveres. Optimism prevails in this joy of a book. A wonderful journey of biking and life. ...more info
  • Huck for Baby Boomers
    Smithy Ide's journey through the 60's to the 90's is as close to a Huckleberry Finn of my generation as I've found-on a par with King's masterpeice (in my eyes) Hearts in Atlantis. Smthy's apparent naivte hides the wisdom of a Zen master's "beginners mind" once he begins his journey of facing grief, shedding his shell of booze, nicotine, fat and TV, and with a beautiful, open candide like vision seeing the world but more importantly himself more clearly. McLarty's reading makes this wonderful man's vision our own. When I say the author's photo on the net, I was shocked, because I expepected fully see Smithy's round face and warm, sad eyes. The story's reverence for simple beauty and ugliness brings to my mind May Sarton's phrase, "the sanctity of the mundane." The man's kindly acute vision seems free of the true naivte that bitter cynicism hide...more info
  • What is the deal with the breasts?
    I thought this was a cute lighthearted book. I came across it on vacation and read it on the beach. Perfect fair for the surroundings. But I noticed that every time, EVERYTIME, he described a woman character, he described her boobs. It became distracting, and then just plain annoying....more info
  • Road Novel Meets Redemption
    The Memory of Running is a solid contemporary American novel. It combines outer and inner journeys with a fabulous finish. I've already read it twice and presented it at a book group. My take is that it's a really good story that offers a good deal for discussion--I definitely wanted to share it with others. Although my life has been nothing like Smithy Ide's, there were aspects that hit home; and McLarty writes so that you really experience it all through Smithy's eyes. It's quite moving. I borrow most of what I read from the library (book collection out of control); but I wanted the hard-bound version of this for myself, which says a lot....more info
  • Great Book!
    Loved this book! The main character is someone you grow to care about. His story pulls you in. Did not want this book to end. Best book I have read in a long time. ...more info
  • Quirky & Enjoyable
    This is a light, easy read. Smithy Ide is wonderful as the "everyman" of the lonely and ignored. Is he a loser? Perhaps; but you'll come to love this character, not for his flaws but for his perseverance and sense (!) of direction. The dialogue is stilted at times and there are some obvious editing oversights but all-in-all a solid first novel.

    Also recommended for teens looking for a loose take on the Bildungsroman. ...more info
  • A Thoroughly Enjoyable Read
    Hats off to McLarty for writing a thoughtful, entertaining, all around good book. Although not much more than a coming of age story where the underdog wins, McLarty's style is crisp, tasteful and dare I say refined. His characters are likeable and the story never drags. This is a good example of a well written book that will appeal to a wide variety of readers...enjoyable on many levels. ...more info
  • Running Not Memorable
    This was another Stephen King best book must read recommendation. He's only batting 1 out of 3 so far, with Case Histories being very good and Vernon God Little being very bad. McLarty's Memory of Running is somewhere in between. Smithy Ide is a Confederacy of Dunces Ignacious O'Reilly type character, full of flaws and fat as a blimp, who sets out, with no prior thought or planning, to bicycle across America. Along the way all sorts of mishaps befall him as if he were a pin cushion for "interesting" characters who unintentionally do him harm. But Smithy is haunted by his crazy sister and the book intercuts between the two stories, Pee Wee's big adventure, I mean Smithy's big adventure, and the family crisis of dealing with a nut job. The book would be more interesting if Smithy weren't such a non-emotional lug who virtually thanks everyone he meets for beating him up, shooting him up or running him over. Okay, so Smithy has hit the emotional mute button on life, but I couldn't help wonder what it would take to make a guy, any guy including Smithy, yell at the top of his lungs out of sheer frustration and/or all of lifes inequities, even if it's only into thin air. Smithy really didn't ring true and all of those "interesting" characters that make cameos, they should have been having conversations amongst themselves about what a dolt he was. But they don't because that would take away from the angelic view of Smithy the reader must sustain to propel the story. ...more info
  • Movie on the way!
    I loved this book so much that I did not want to finish it and let the journey end. But I finally did and am now excited to learn that there is a movie coming soon! Much thanks to King for making this all come about....more info
  • Amazing on so many levels!!!!!
    I will not clutter up this review by telling you about the book. If you are reading this, you are at least somewhat interested, so my suggestion is to go ahead and read it! It is excellent. It is the all american middle aged guy, and his journey through america. A great novel, and vey satisfying....more info
  • Simple but true hero
    It's rare enough to find a book where the main character is as simple, honest and true about his shortcomings as Smithy Ide is. Through the loss of his family, Smithy faces the man that he has become and finds what it takes to go back to the open and caring person he was. This is really an amazing story about a journey where Smithy and us can learn about life and being true to oneself. Smithy is a wonderful character and I can only highly recommend this book....more info
  • HOPE and LOVE
    When I started reading this I was a bit slow in liking it and then the main character hooked me and I wanted to be his friend for the rest of his journey.

    I used to run and now ride a bike and loved the fortitude with which he made his journey.

    Read it. ...and bring bananas...more info