"Smithy is an American original, worthy of a place on the shelf just below your Hucks, your Holdens, your Yossarians." —Stephen King
Every so often, a novel comes along 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.
Smithy Ide is a really nice guy. But he's also an overweight, friendless, womanless, hard-drinking, 43-year-old self-professed loser with a breast fetish and a dead-end job, given to stammering "I just don't know" in life's confusing moments. When Smithy's entire family dies, he embarks on a transcontinental bicycle trip to recover his sister's body and rediscover what it means to live. Along the way, he flashes back to his past and the hardships of his beloved sister's schizophrenia, while his dejection encourages strangers to share their life stories. The road redeems the innocent Smithy: he loses weight; rescues a child from a blizzard; rebuffs the advances of a nubile, "apple-breasted" co-cyclist after seeing a vision of his dead sister; and nurtures a telephone romance with a paraplegic family friend as he processes his rocky past. McLarty, a playwright and television actor, propels the plot with glib mayhem including three tragic car accidents in 31 pages and a death by lightning bolt and a lot of bighearted and warm but faintly mournful humor. It's a funny, poignant, slightly gawky debut that aims, like its protagonist, to please and usually does. in a now-famous 2003 Entertainment Weekly column; a 15-city tour and McLarty's certain stage presence should make plenty of folks sit up and take notice.
So many novels begin with the obligatory roll-call of characters, lost in a world familiar and strange. Strange, for the forced way we, the reader, are asked to believe in chaos as a fashionable alternative to the boring aspects of everyday life.
This is not the case with The Memory of Running. A mix of Forrest Gump, Beans of Egypt Maine and The World According to Garp, The Memory of Running is a timeless story of a man running from the hurt that frames his life and those close to him.
The Memory of Running
A wonderful story of a family that struggles with more than just the average family problems. Colorful characters, interesting situations, painful at times, humorous, and altogether a great read. It would make a good book club choice.
Awful, unbelievable book. Main character was a strange man who never corrected people letting them always assume the worse. I know it was fiction but we really were to buy a fat alcoholic jumps on a bike and rides cross the US?
Wanted to like it but just couldn't.