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The Memory of Running (Audiobook) (CD)

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"Meet Smithson "Smithy" Ide, an overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk who works as a quality control inspector at a toy-action-figure factory in Rhode Island. By all accounts, especially Smithy's own, he's a loser. Then, within the span of one week, his beloved parents are killed in a car crash, and Smithy learns that his emotionally troubled, "Meet Smithson "Smithy" Ide, an overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk who works as a quality control inspector at a toy-action-figure factory in Rhode Island. By all accounts, especially Smithy's own, he's a loser. Then, within the span of one week, his beloved parents are killed in a car crash, and Smithy learns that his emotionally troubled, long-lost sister, Bethany, has turned up in a morgue in Los Angeles. Unmoored by the loss of his entire family - Smithy had always hoped Bethany might return - he rolls down the driveway of his parents' house on his old Raleigh bicycle into an epic journey that will take him clear across the country." As Smithy pedals across America - through New York City, St. Louis, Denver, and Phoenix, to name a few - he encounters humanity at its best and worst and begins to remember an early life that too many beers have blotted out. The baseball games, the home-cooked meals, the soothing presence of his salt-of-the-earth parents; none of it could transform the dark truth of his sister's madness.


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"Meet Smithson "Smithy" Ide, an overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk who works as a quality control inspector at a toy-action-figure factory in Rhode Island. By all accounts, especially Smithy's own, he's a loser. Then, within the span of one week, his beloved parents are killed in a car crash, and Smithy learns that his emotionally troubled, "Meet Smithson "Smithy" Ide, an overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk who works as a quality control inspector at a toy-action-figure factory in Rhode Island. By all accounts, especially Smithy's own, he's a loser. Then, within the span of one week, his beloved parents are killed in a car crash, and Smithy learns that his emotionally troubled, long-lost sister, Bethany, has turned up in a morgue in Los Angeles. Unmoored by the loss of his entire family - Smithy had always hoped Bethany might return - he rolls down the driveway of his parents' house on his old Raleigh bicycle into an epic journey that will take him clear across the country." As Smithy pedals across America - through New York City, St. Louis, Denver, and Phoenix, to name a few - he encounters humanity at its best and worst and begins to remember an early life that too many beers have blotted out. The baseball games, the home-cooked meals, the soothing presence of his salt-of-the-earth parents; none of it could transform the dark truth of his sister's madness.

30 review for The Memory of Running (Audiobook) (CD)

  1. 5 out of 5

    B the BookAddict

    The Memory of Running is basically a road novel, the story of one man's redemption; it's about growing up, getting older, family and friends, mental illness and the Vietnam War. Smithy, a 43 year old Purple Heart recipient of the Vietnam War, is overweight and he drinks and smokes too much. With a lousy job, no friends, no girlfriend and an apartment he hates, he has just his parents and too many unhappy memories for company. After a tragedy strikes at home, Smithy sets off on a quixotic bike The Memory of Running is basically a road novel, the story of one man's redemption; it's about growing up, getting older, family and friends, mental illness and the Vietnam War. Smithy, a 43 year old Purple Heart recipient of the Vietnam War, is overweight and he drinks and smokes too much. With a lousy job, no friends, no girlfriend and an apartment he hates, he has just his parents and too many unhappy memories for company. After a tragedy strikes at home, Smithy sets off on a quixotic bike ride across America, encountering random acts of kindness and small catastrophes along the way. As he rides, he reflects on his youth which was fractured by Bethany, his lovely but schizophrenic sister who was the cause of much family angst; on Norma, the wheelchair bound childhood neighbor who adored Smithy; and on eleven months he spent in Vietnam. But it is his relationship with Bethany which haunts him well into his adult years and will prove to be the impetus for his ride. Along the way, he is mistaken for a homeless person by an overzealous priest; a conman and thief by a doctor whose dying AIDS patient has knocked Smithy from his bike injuring him; and for a child molester by a group of mothers. Belatedly Smithy finds in himself a freedom and resilience previously unknown and untapped. This is an sometimes funny, sometimes melancholic story and you will find that Smithy wins a place in your heart; he will become a favorite anti-hero. This novel is a wonderful effort for the author who originally could not find a publisher so recorded it himself as an audio-book. Stephen King listened to the story then pushed it through his own publishers. All I can say is thank goodness for that, otherwise this gorgeous story might have disappeared from the view of the physical book reader . I read this book because my GR friend Elaine has marked it with a 5 rating; thank you Elaine, you have excellent taste. Stephen King says “Smithy is an American original, worthy of a place on the shelf just below you Hucks, your Holdens and your Yossarians.” He is not wrong in that summation. I loved Smithy and I loved his story. Definitely 5★ from me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    Frankly, this was a good story. Maybe a GREAT story, but I hated the main character. I didn't start to "care" about the guy until almost 300 pages in, and really, "care" may be too strong a word. Why did I hate him? I just did. Maybe it was his obsession with all things big tittied. (Yes, I'm titless and bitter) I also thought the dialogue fell flat (heh.) and... okay, okay! The boobs annoyed the crap out of me. Here's how it goes: Fat, lonely, drunk (FLD) loses both of his parents due to an Frankly, this was a good story. Maybe a GREAT story, but I hated the main character. I didn't start to "care" about the guy until almost 300 pages in, and really, "care" may be too strong a word. Why did I hate him? I just did. Maybe it was his obsession with all things big tittied. (Yes, I'm titless and bitter) I also thought the dialogue fell flat (heh.) and... okay, okay! The boobs annoyed the crap out of me. Here's how it goes: Fat, lonely, drunk (FLD) loses both of his parents due to an accident after they linger briefly in the ICU (with big tittied nurses). FLD then discovers his MIA mental case sister (smallish but pretty rack) is dead on the other side of the country. After the funeral, (arranged by mortician with ample bosom) FLD gets on his bike, a relic from his childhood and heads West, to retrieve his dead sister from the morgue. Along the way, FLD meets a host of colorful characters, while careening back and forth to his youth with nutso sister, to a developing romance and to his time in the war. We meet: - The shrink for his sister. He's in love with her and her enormous breasts that strain against her blouse. - A gay man. The gay man hits FLD on his bike, FLD then helps take care of gay man as he dies of AIDS a day later. Gay man does not have boobs. Gay Man's doctor has boobs, FLD dubs them "smallish," but he bets they are pretty. - A priest who thinks FLD is homeless. He helps FLD out, but has troubles of his own, having asked a sexy parishioner about her hot tits and juicy love box. - A kid stuck in a snowstorm, that FLD saves, and then is under suspicion of molesting. FLD is cleared and the family is forever thankful. (I forget how the mom's jugs rate) - The prostitute in Vietnam that takes his virginity. He gets to touch boobies! - Chris. A woman bike rider that drags him into a road tour as he heads West. She has "happy breasts. They were the Golden Delicious of Breasts." - Jill. She has a big chest and is his prom date. Anyway, amid all the titties, FLD transforms into something else. Read the book if you want to know. I was left wondering.... was McLarty breastfed?

  3. 5 out of 5

    J.K. Grice

    Interestingly enough this book was released on audio before it ever saw print. Stephen King raved about it, and helped push Ron McLarty's writing into the spotlight. THE MEMORY OF RUNNING is a brilliant novel, and one of my all time favorites. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This book surprised me. I bought it for .50 cents at a thrift store and took it on a trip to Mexico. I was touched by the simplicity of the main character and the overall discussion of mental illness--how horribly tragic and devastating it can be and how those with depression or other disorders suffer and how their loved ones suffer (and ache to heal them).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    I thought this book was one for the classic shelf! It was a little hard for me to get into. At first, Smithy annoyed me, but as he discovered himself, the reader got to learn who he really is and that the person he had become was simply the chrysalis before the butterfly. I loved this book and would recommend it to all my friends!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    Well, I've tried and tried, but this is another book that left me pretty close to speechless. This is a story about Smithson Ide, his sister Bethany, their parents, and the neighbor girl Norma. They....he....she.....oh, bother. Just read it. And cry. And cheer.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Proffitt

    This was a great read, which is a surprise because I don't typically like such a passive main character. Yes, Smithy is a loser (as the cover copy so cheerfully trumpets), but that's mostly an aspect of his passivity. He lets life pass him by. Or has done. The novel really picks up once Smithy's life falls apart, jolting Smithy out of his rut(s). But even before then, McLarty does a fantastic job keeping the reader engaged by giving us flashbacks to the boy that Smithy was and the disaster that This was a great read, which is a surprise because I don't typically like such a passive main character. Yes, Smithy is a loser (as the cover copy so cheerfully trumpets), but that's mostly an aspect of his passivity. He lets life pass him by. Or has done. The novel really picks up once Smithy's life falls apart, jolting Smithy out of his rut(s). But even before then, McLarty does a fantastic job keeping the reader engaged by giving us flashbacks to the boy that Smithy was and the disaster that is his sister, Bethany. Indeed, McLarty's use of flashbacks is incredibly well done, weaving a tapestry with each piece masterfully placed so that the scenes inform one another (present and past), each enhancing the other. And I think I'll leave it there. In the end, the book is about discovery. Smithy ends up discovering himself, but that's almost a pleasant side-effect of his journey outside himself. His passivity and easy acceptance of others allows us into myriad other stories, glimpses of beauty and horror that we all have inside. And again, these disparate vignettes come together in a wonderful whole with Smithy as the frame. Okay, I'm starting to have English Lit flashbacks, here, so I'll truly stop now. Suffice it to say, if you're interested in character and internal journeys incredibly well-told, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. A note about Audible: I was shocked at the end to realize that Ron McLarty read this, himself. He's an incredibly talented actor (he was in Spenser: For Hire!!!), so this works amazingly well. Seriously, if you like listening to books, get this one on audio.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Doug Bradshaw

    In "Flowers for Algernon" Charley goes from handicapped, low IQ guy to super genius guy and then back again. There are similar emotions created in "The Memory of Running." A 43 year old Viet Nam veteran has had a series of difficult things hit him hard including 20 bullets and a tragically flawed and beautiful, but mentally ill sister's disappearance. And so, he is has become overweight, a heavy smoker and drinker with a minimal job, kind of a slob with no real friends, no real life. I won't take In "Flowers for Algernon" Charley goes from handicapped, low IQ guy to super genius guy and then back again. There are similar emotions created in "The Memory of Running." A 43 year old Viet Nam veteran has had a series of difficult things hit him hard including 20 bullets and a tragically flawed and beautiful, but mentally ill sister's disappearance. And so, he is has become overweight, a heavy smoker and drinker with a minimal job, kind of a slob with no real friends, no real life. I won't take time to describe how and why, but he is driven within to ride his bike from Rhode Island to Los Angeles on his quest to pick up his sister. During this impossible trip, he rediscovers his life while going through amazing and yet believable experiences with different people throughout the country. Some of these experiences are hard to take as he is kicked around by Doctors and Policemen who think he is a no goodnick bum. As he makes progress as he rides across the country, the mental fog starts to disappear, the weight starts to fall off, he quits his bad habits, loves his daily bananas and a real transformation starts to take place. It is sometimes emotionally draining, sometimes hard to take, and even though our protagonist is 43 years old, it is a coming of age story. And it is subtly told in a way that makes you cheer for him as his mind clears and he regains his life. A wonderful book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    I think that you have to be in a particular mood to thoroughly enjoy this book, and you can't over-analyze what I believe is its core message: Don't judge lest you be judged (quote from the book). Also, I think that the author makes it ieasy for us to relate to the main character, who eats and drinks to hide his pain. Not to say that we all eat and drink obsessively when something goes wrong, but its easy not to confront things that bother you than to deal with them head on.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Char

    Yes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Recommended to me by a good friend, I began reading this work as an obligation to said friend, and while it took a while to get into it, I was soon sold and began to care about what was to happen to each character and the journey they were on. I love a good story and this is definitely a good story for those that enjoy what may appear, on the surface, to be the lighter side of life, but in truth, explores much deeper issues. Very enjoyable and best of all, an appropriate ending.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melodie

    This is one of the hardest reviews for me to write. I tore through this book in two days,all the while being intrigued,fascinated, repelled, pissed off. There are parts of this book that I loved with little kernels of wisdom. And then there are parts that should have been better researched. Smithy, our main character takes off on a bike trip across the US. Shades of Forrest Gump on wheels. Having just lost both parents due to a car accident,he is truly alone. His sister, has long ago This is one of the hardest reviews for me to write. I tore through this book in two days,all the while being intrigued,fascinated, repelled, pissed off. There are parts of this book that I loved with little kernels of wisdom. And then there are parts that should have been better researched. Smithy, our main character takes off on a bike trip across the US. Shades of Forrest Gump on wheels. Having just lost both parents due to a car accident,he is truly alone. His sister, has long ago disappeared, a victim of mental illness. As is his usual, he self medicates with booze, food and cigarettes, wallowing in the cesspool of self pity. He comes across a letter to his father from a coroner in California,informing that the body of his sister has been identified and is being held pending family wishes for burial. What follows is Smithy's journey to reach his sister. An unintentional journey at first, it turns into a quest of self discovery,forgiveness,growth, redemption.On his journey there are all kinds of characters, replete with humor,bigotry,compassion,indifference,grace. Our tendency for snap judgement is given plenty of play as Smithy endures physical assault twice from law enforcement. And the medical profession takes a hit for indifference and blatant ridiculousness in dealing with the aftermath of the accident that claimed his parents's lives. Smithy's hyper focus on women's breasts is misogynistic drivel, and could have been left out entirely or at least confined to the teenage years of our hero where it would have made some sense. And the author's display of medical professionals throughout the book as superficial,farcical and tone deaf was offensive. Yes, being a nurse, I take that personally. Overall though I enjoyed this book and recommend it highly.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The Memory of Running is a beautiful and sad piece of fiction. A modern-day, overweight, middle-aged Odysseus begins a transformative trek across the country, during which he meets odd characters, avoids (and succumbs to) dangers, and regains his life and himself. At the same time, the story of his family is told in flashback, especially the story of his sister, who is stricken with schizophrenia in the prime of her life. The disease will rob his sister of everything - her connections to family The Memory of Running is a beautiful and sad piece of fiction. A modern-day, overweight, middle-aged Odysseus begins a transformative trek across the country, during which he meets odd characters, avoids (and succumbs to) dangers, and regains his life and himself. At the same time, the story of his family is told in flashback, especially the story of his sister, who is stricken with schizophrenia in the prime of her life. The disease will rob his sister of everything - her connections to family and friends and lovers, her means to earn a living, her youth, her home, her appearance and identity, and finally her life itself. It is this stripping away of his sister's person that sets Smithy up for his loss of himself, and his coming to terms with it in which he finds himself again. And it is what makes this book so beautiful, tragic, and touching. McLarty has had a long, successful career as a reader of books for audio recordings, and this is his first published novel - published first by Recorded Books in audio form, and later brought to the world in paper. I had the author himself read this book to me as I drove, and the final minutes of the last chapter had me in tears as I sat in my driveway and contemplated the loss . . . even now it mists me up to think about it. The book is also sweet, funny, human, and improbable in turns. A touching beauty of a read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    J. Yandell

    I listened to the audio version of this book, and the flashbacks telling the story of his early life and his sister, Bethany, were very engaging. I was far less impressed with the present-day journey. I couldn't get past the whole "you have got to be kidding" syndrome. Come on. A forty-something, 300 lb. alcoholic smoker gets on his childhood bike one day and just keeps going? Okay, maybe he found inner strength to not miss the vodka, and to ignore what I am sure would have to be serious I listened to the audio version of this book, and the flashbacks telling the story of his early life and his sister, Bethany, were very engaging. I was far less impressed with the present-day journey. I couldn't get past the whole "you have got to be kidding" syndrome. Come on. A forty-something, 300 lb. alcoholic smoker gets on his childhood bike one day and just keeps going? Okay, maybe he found inner strength to not miss the vodka, and to ignore what I am sure would have to be serious physical pains and strains and discomforts. Maybe he even managed not to have a heart attack..... but he never even thinks about a cigarette? And at nearly 300 lbs, and riding anywhere from seven to twenty miles a day, he subsists just fine on bananas, protein bars, tuna fish and water? Do you have any idea of the caloric intake needed to sustain a man of that bulk, let alone one engaged in strenuous exercise? Maybe it's because I write myself and am so attuned to looking for the thin spots that strain a reader's credulity. Things like this really ruin books for me. Perhaps I need to market myself as an editor for believability.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Duffy

    What an intriguing plot! I was hooked after the first two paragraphs. Within the first few pages, you know more about the main character Smithy and the catastrophic events of his life from the previous day. He is a run-down, going-nowhere guy who knows that his life is crumbling all around him. He gets through the initial stages of loss by remembering touching yet difficult memories of his sister, and sharing many of his painful secrets with a woman. A great get-off-your-ass awakening that What an intriguing plot! I was hooked after the first two paragraphs. Within the first few pages, you know more about the main character Smithy and the catastrophic events of his life from the previous day. He is a run-down, going-nowhere guy who knows that his life is crumbling all around him. He gets through the initial stages of loss by remembering touching yet difficult memories of his sister, and sharing many of his painful secrets with a woman. A great get-off-your-ass awakening that reveals that even when you overcome the big hurdles, the littlest of life's moments can knock you down flat. A quick read that will leave you desperate to talk about this book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rich Stoehr

    "...I gave the Raleigh a few steps, sat ridiculously on the seat, and began to coast on the flat tire rims of my bike, down our little hill." With this inauspicious beginning, Smithson Ide starts a journey that will take him thousands of miles, across the landscape of America and through the uncertain territory of memory. "The Memory of Running" is an extraordinary novel, and I do not use that word lightly. It is well-written, in a simple, uncluttered style that I found quite refreshing. It is one "...I gave the Raleigh a few steps, sat ridiculously on the seat, and began to coast on the flat tire rims of my bike, down our little hill." With this inauspicious beginning, Smithson Ide starts a journey that will take him thousands of miles, across the landscape of America and through the uncertain territory of memory. "The Memory of Running" is an extraordinary novel, and I do not use that word lightly. It is well-written, in a simple, uncluttered style that I found quite refreshing. It is one of the rare books in which an unremarkable, sometimes even unlikable character is given life and breath by the author in such a subtle way that you barely even see it happening...but by the end of the book you may just come to love "Smithy" Ide. It is an inspiring story, but in an understated way -- it doesn't (I think) seek to inspire, but it inspires anyway. It's not a "feel-good" story in the usual sense of the word, but it is a story that makes you feel good while you're reading it, and while you're thinking about it after you're done reading...which you will. Within the first 60 pages of "The Memory of Running" Smithy Ide's parents are both killed in a car accident, we learn that Smithy himself is overweight, an alcoholic, and not exactly a people person, and his sister Bethany, who he has not seen for many years, has also died in California. Smithy is confused, depressed, and begins to really lose himself (as he has done before) in beer and screwdrivers, when he finds his old Raleigh bicycle in his parents' garage. The tires are flat, the headlight on the front has no batteries, and he's outgrown it in more ways than one...but he gets on and starts riding. He leaves behind only the detritus of his parents' lives, a job he doesn't like, and the regrets that have piled up all his life. The journey that Smithy embarks on isn't a particularly exciting one. The most excitement to be found in these pages is early on, when Smithy is coasting down a huge series of hills and his brakes fail, and he careens out of control through a baseball field. We spend much of the time with Smithy in his head, reliving memories of his mother and father and his troubled sister Bethany, and we slowly learn why Smithy is the way he is. Smithy's journey is marked not so much by the places he passes through, but by the people he meets along the way. We see all of them through Smithy's eyes, through the simple face-value understanding he applies to everything he experiences. We also see, as the novel progresses, how he changes and how those changes affect his outlook. There are no trite "ah-ha!" moments of revelation in the book, because they aren't necessary. Smithy's changes are gradual and natural, an extension of the journey he is taking and the life he has lived. All of these elements are handled with a deft and subtle hand, making it look easy (although I'm sure it wasn't). What Ron McLarty his given us in "The Memory of Running" is nothing short of an American original. Smithson Ide is a uniquely American character, both in his failings and in his successes. He is expressed in simple terms, modern but universal. You may not like Smithy much as the book opens, but chances are pretty good that you know him, or someone very much like him. Similarly, the book itself is uniquely American. The story is one where place matters, because such a story could probably only happen in the wide open spaces of modern America -- tarnished, imperfect, jaded, but still essentially good. "The Memory of Running" is not a flashy book, and Smithy Ide is not a charming or intelligent or witty character, but both the book and the character win me over because they are honest. This is a novel that finds the truth at the heart of the fiction, and expresses it in terms anyone can grasp. Along Smithy's path through the heart of America, we find that the same path gives us an understanding of an American soul -- as the twists and turns and dead ends thrown in the path shape who we are and who we might become. A fine, extraordinary novel.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bark

    Stephen King personally insisted that I read this book (okay, he recommended it to me AND thousands of others in an Entertainment Weekly column) so here I am. His write up was so enthusiastic that I couldnt resist. And Im glad I didnt. The Memory of Running is the story of Smithson Ide, your every day boy next door growing up in New England during the 60s. The story is told in a series of flashbacks and narrated by 40-something Smithy. Smithys sister Bethany constantly told him to keep running or Stephen King personally insisted that I read this book (okay, he recommended it to me AND thousands of others in an Entertainment Weekly column) so here I am. His write up was so enthusiastic that I couldn’t resist. And I’m glad I didn’t. The Memory of Running is the story of Smithson Ide, your every day boy next door growing up in New England during the 60’s. The story is told in a series of flashbacks and narrated by 40-something Smithy. Smithy’s sister Bethany constantly told him to keep running or he’d turn into a fat ass and she wasn’t kidding. Smithy has grown from a slender boy who loved to run into an overweight, junk eating, chain-smoking laze-about with little ambition and a great fondness for the television set. He lives a monotonous, shut-in sort of life but has managed to maintain an aura of sweetness and innocence when, as we learn more of his past, he could have easily become jaded and bitter. When his parents tragically die he revisits his past, rekindles a friendship with a long neglected friend and hops on a bicycle in his funeral suit to work through his grief. During his trip from Rhode Island to California he meets all sorts of fascinating people with stories to tell and recounts his very interesting and often heartbreaking past. The story starts a bit slowly but quickly picks up pace. As it went on I found myself making excuses to stay in the car or take a longer route home so I hear just a few more words. Smithy grew up with an older sister, Bethany, who he, his mom and his pop loved very much. Bethany was beautiful and smart but began to hear “voices” as a young teen. The “voice” makes Bethany do bizarre, out of character, shameful things like strip off her clothes in public, tear at her pretty face, stand in odd poses for hours on end and disappear. Smithy spends much of his childhood biking around looking for Bethany and hates Bethany’s “voice” though he always continues to love his sister even when she’s cruel. The story flips between Smithy’s current day wanderings where he meets all sorts of folks and has some downright odd encounters and flashes back to his past where he goes into detail about important points in his young life; from dating foibles, to the fateful day when a childhood friend’s vibrant personality was forever changed and he details many of Bethany’s “episodes” which had a huge impact on his young life. You really get to know these folks in the span of this book and I was sorry to let them go when I finished. The story isn’t always perfect (some of the dialogue feels unreal and the story shifts are sometimes too abrupt for my liking) but despite the minor quibbles it is one of the most involving things I've read in quite a while and author McLarty’s narration is seamlessly performed. Filled with unexpected twists, beautifully detailed settings and a gut wrenching sense of emotional intensity The Memory of Running is a book I’ll be revisiting many times.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    I loved this book so much I hardly know where to begin... It had a terrific premise and even better execution... The main character, Smithy, in some ways reminded me of a less-socially-apt friend of mine which may sound unkind, but Smithys character was both noble and quite heroic in his own way. In fact, if my friend ever decides to read fiction, I will recommend this to him. Honestly, I would recommend this to anyone, really - it was that good. I still can't get over the fact that the author I loved this book so much I hardly know where to begin... It had a terrific premise and even better execution... The main character, Smithy, in some ways reminded me of a less-socially-apt friend of mine which may sound unkind, but Smithy’s character was both noble and quite heroic in his own way. In fact, if my friend ever decides to read fiction, I will recommend this to him. Honestly, I would recommend this to anyone, really - it was that good. I still can't get over the fact that the author appeared in one episode of Sex & the City and that 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 just great! All in all, I really loved this book and I sincerely hope he continues writing! I definitely will continue to follow his career!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    this book is awful. the writing is so contrived and predictable... the author often forgets what he previously wrote resulting in a lot inconsistencies throughout the book. he is racist (the race of only black characters are noted), sexist (has a bizarre oedipal obsession with breasts) and homophobic (one character tells unfunny, highly inappropriate jokes). also, I swear, there is product placement sprinkled in there as well. fuck... was this book bad. so horrible, in fact, that i would feel this book is awful. the writing is so contrived and predictable... the author often forgets what he previously wrote resulting in a lot inconsistencies throughout the book. he is racist (the race of only black characters are noted), sexist (has a bizarre oedipal obsession with breasts) and homophobic (one character tells unfunny, highly inappropriate jokes). also, I swear, there is product placement sprinkled in there as well. fuck... was this book bad. so horrible, in fact, that i would feel guilty in trying to pass it off onto others.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris Dietzel

    I almost never randomly read books I don't know anything about due to the fact I have such a long list of books I already know I want to read. This book was an exception to that rule. It was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the idea of the story and some of the scenes were poignant but there was also a lot that could have been cut out and some of the dialogue felt extremely tedious. In the end, I appreciate the story McLarty told and it was a quick and easy read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kater Cheek

    The Memory of Running There's a point in this book where the principal character describes the hot dogs he has eaten. He has spent all his money on hot dogs and eaten them and while he reflects that hot dogs are not good food, they feel like they should be good food. Hot dogs are food made by someone who cooks a lot but has no real concept of nutrition. This book is a novel written by someone who knows how to write a novel but doesn't seem to have a very good concept of how people work. But maybe The Memory of Running There's a point in this book where the principal character describes the hot dogs he has eaten. He has spent all his money on hot dogs and eaten them and while he reflects that hot dogs are not good food, they feel like they should be good food. Hot dogs are food made by someone who cooks a lot but has no real concept of nutrition. This book is a novel written by someone who knows how to write a novel but doesn't seem to have a very good concept of how people work. But maybe I'm being too harsh. It's easy to conflate the principal character of a novel with its author. The principal character in this book, Smithy Ide, is as dumb as a box of rocks. What this novel reminds me of the most is Forrest Gump. Like Forrest, Smithy has humble beginnings and an unspectacular upbringing and his one main virtue is that he never thinks about anything before doing it and seems to attarct attention despite being singularly unattractive and unremarkable. Unlike Forrest, Smithy isn't played by the charismatic Tom Hanks, but is a nearly 300lb middle-aged alcoholic at a dead-end job in Rhode Island. I'm sure that's not what the author would say this book was about. I'm sure the author would say this book was about Bethany Ide, and how her mental illness affected the lives of her brother and the rest of her family. You could say Bethany was a beautiful but troubled girl who had a voice that told her to do things (my layman's best guess was catatonic schitzophrenia). She's beautiful, and kind. She's beautiful, and troubled. She's beautiful, and has a beautiful voice, and looks so beautiful on her prom night, and oh, so troubled, that poor girl with her mental illness. We don't know what Bethany wants out of life, what her favorite hobby is, what flavor of ice cream she prefers, what her favorite color is, if she's smart or dumb, if she likes crowds or being alone. We only know she's beautiful, and kind, and troubled. At one point, she tells Smithy why she does her catatonic poses, but we don't know how she feels about her mental illness, or hear anything from her point of view. In another story that wouldn't matter, but Bethany and her illness dominate the story. The story of Bethany is nearly half of the make-up of this book, and Bethany's opinion doesn't seem to matter. Bethany's thoughts didn't seem to matter. Bethany is just a beautiful creature who must be protected, not a human being capable of autonomous thought. All that matters is that she is beautiful, and that she needs to be protected. That bugged me. I mean, seriously. At least 40% of the book deals with Bethany, and I don't know anything about her other than that she's beautiful and crazy. She's an object, not a person. I've known chickens with more personality. In the story, Smithy's parents die suddenly, and on a drunken whim, he starts to ride his Raleigh bike. He wakes up several miles away, and decides he's going to keep riding to Los Angeles to get Bethany, who has been missing for many years and whose dental records matched up with a homeless person who passed away. The fact that he has no money, no bike patch kit, no real supplies of any kind and no good plan on what he's going to do when he gets there doesn't faze him. Smithy's one virtue is that he doesn't ever think about anything before he does it, or even while he's doing it. But he does have an asset: Norma. Norma is the second thing I dislike about this book. Norma was the kid down the street who had a crush on Smithy since forever, but when Norma was a fairly young girl she got hit by a car and was in a wheelchair the rest of her life. So, instead of coming over and hanging out with the Ide kids, Norma stayed in her living room and peered sadly out the blinds at the people who couldn't be bothered to come over and say hi. Yet, she still adores Smithy and will do anything for him. She sends Smithy money when he needs it, which enables him to continue his idiotic bike ride. Norma has a big spiel in the beginning of the novel about how self-reliant she is, how she makes good money and is strong and fit and can get herself up the porch on her own power and how she never feels sorry for herself. I say: shenanigans. She does feel sorry for herself. She feels sorry for herself, and Smithy feels sorry for her, and the reader is expected to pity her too. I do, because Norma is a doormat. Why would you pine for decades after a guy who couldn't be bothered to walk across the street to say hi? Why would you desperately want to go hang out with them, and be able to do so, and not do so? Why would I respect a girl who pined after Smithy, of all people? Smithy, the drunk, fat, loser with a dead-end job who finds reading books difficult and doesn't know how to make or keep friends? What, exactly, are we meant to admire in him? His planet-like head? His skill at fishing? The fact that every single person who sees Smithy instantly jumps to the worst possible conclusions about his motives? (If every single person I met immediately assumed I was capable/had committed incest, rape, pedophilia, murder or theft, I might solicit some feedback on how to improve my demeanor.) But Norma isn't a real person. Norma is the Penelope to his Ulysses. Norma is the selfless heart, the good woman whose undying love proves Smithy has worth. She's too good to him, but that's to be expected in escapist fiction. We know from the beginning that Norma is meant to be with Smithy. It's like Norma was the one they all expected him to marry when he grew up, and Smithy blew it, not because he had the independence to overthrow societal expectations, but because he was too clueless to see what was right in front of him. I think the target reader of this book is a man who was raised in the exceedingly narrow gender-confines of middle-America. How do you cope with grief when crying is unmanly? Get drunk and do something stupid and dangerous. When Smithy goes on and on about the breasts he wants to date (yes, there's a girl attached, but it's the breasts he is interested in) the reader is maybe supposed to go “aw, yeah, man, I like boobs too!” When Smithy seems incapable of coherent speech under even moderate stress, maybe we're meant to go “aw, yeah, man, communicating is so hard!” At one point, Smithy has been biking so long and eating nothing but fruit for so long that he's lost 50 or 60 lbs, and he joins up with a cross-country biking trip where a pretty girl in her 20s gets naked and climbs into bed with him. This is pure fantasyland. A nearly 300lb guy who lost that much weight in a month is going to look like a deflated balloon, not like David Hasselhoff. And hot 20 something women generally don't solicit no strings attached sex with guys in their 40s unless a cash transaction is involved, especially not planet-headed unemployed morons with less personality than a chicken. But it's not meant to be realistic, I think, it's meant to appeal to the private fantasies of the target reader. Smithy is meant to be a “good guy” but not having done anything bad (unless you count abandoning the only friend in the world who'd even look him in the eye for a couple of decades) doesn't make a person good. But maybe that was the author's intention. Maybe Smithy is the plain white page to set off the characters with actual personality. Because Smithy does meet interesting people along the way. His uncle Count has a personality, albiet a one-note personality (lech/dirty old man/racist). His dad has a personality. Well, sort of. (Devoted baseball player/fan + devoted father of a troubled girl). His mom makes sandwiches. His aunt is “strong” because she puts creepy uncle Count to bed after he gets drunk/has another heart attack. Smithy meets a street artist in New York who draws birds and tells him about her wild love affairs. He meets a bike repairman in California who is mourning a dead son. He meets a vegetarian mother in Colorado who wants to adopt a second child. He shares a love of badly made coffee with a trucker. I like the form of the novel. I liked the pacing of it. I liked the idea of it. But I do not like the main character. He is a bland dishrag, and I got tired of his “gosh, that's neat” or “people are mostly nice” or “I don't know. I just don't know.” The plot was okay, but a character-driven novel ought to have characters worth reading about (or listening to, in my case). The story was kind of fun, but a novel ought to have some sentiment or language or poetry that the reader could take away, some observation on the human condition. I don't think it delivered. In short, this novel is like a hot dog: skill went into its creation, but the raw ingredients are poor quality and flavorless.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This is a ransom note of a novel, with little bits of pop culture stereotypes clipped from here and there and then pasted together. I found the whole thing depressing, but without it being touching. I don't like stories that jump all around in time. In this case, it bothered me more than usually because it's supposed to be a first-person memoir of someone who is something of a simpleton, and so this complex narrative structure does not ring true. Nor does the language he uses, e.g. "My silent This is a ransom note of a novel, with little bits of pop culture stereotypes clipped from here and there and then pasted together. I found the whole thing depressing, but without it being touching. I don't like stories that jump all around in time. In this case, it bothered me more than usually because it's supposed to be a first-person memoir of someone who is something of a simpleton, and so this complex narrative structure does not ring true. Nor does the language he uses, e.g. "My silent admiration of this woman loaded the American countryside and filled the cities." (Quote may not be 100% exact because I'm going from audio). The other characters are not much more three-dimensional. The central theme of the story is Bethany's schizophrenia, but everyone, including the psychiatrists, is in denial about it, so there's no wisdom or resolution of anything there. I'm not an expert on writing fiction so I can't explain the difference, but if you are looking for a similar story (ordinary guy goes on extraordinary human-powered journey to reconnect with lost someone) I would recommend: .

  23. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Mannix

    A sympathetic tale about a lonely, passive blob of a man who sits around, drinks, has a dead-end job and answers most questions with "I don't know." Smithy is haunted by memories of his schizophrenic sister who disappeared long ago and for a long-time he has just been biding time. With the death of both parents in a single car crash, Smithy is jolted into action. He takes off on his childhood Raleigh with just the clothes on his back on what turns out to be a cross-country journey. He encounters A sympathetic tale about a lonely, passive blob of a man who sits around, drinks, has a dead-end job and answers most questions with "I don't know." Smithy is haunted by memories of his schizophrenic sister who disappeared long ago and for a long-time he has just been biding time. With the death of both parents in a single car crash, Smithy is jolted into action. He takes off on his childhood Raleigh with just the clothes on his back on what turns out to be a cross-country journey. He encounters some wonderful characters along the way and slowly, subtly Smithy emerges as a guy who takes action, makes a plan, has opinions and realizes he cares deeply for the girl-next-door. She, a parapalegic, quietly encourages Smithy on his quest with her periodic phone calls. This is a sweet book, quickly read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Well, I was definitely expecting a lot more from this book. The story seems promising, at first. It begins with the main character, Smithy, forced into a turning point in his life. And I really wanted him to make it through. However, the more I read, the more frustrated with this book and character I became. I can appreciate a difficult character. I rather like deeply flawed and imperfect characters. But this character's flaws weren't actually his and were instead the author's. What should have Well, I was definitely expecting a lot more from this book. The story seems promising, at first. It begins with the main character, Smithy, forced into a turning point in his life. And I really wanted him to make it through. However, the more I read, the more frustrated with this book and character I became. I can appreciate a difficult character. I rather like deeply flawed and imperfect characters. But this character's flaws weren't actually his and were instead the author's. What should have been Smithy's main obstacle was to not let life "bounce" him around. At one time he even states that he's going to try and stop this from happening to him. Yet, that's exactly what happens to him throughout the book and the concept is dropped. The bike trip, his ultimate "journey" just kind of happens and there is no clear definite choice on his part. Even his relationship with Norma, his only friend, seems to be in the fashion of his old life. He just has no one else to call because he never made any friends. Despite these flaws in the character, that aren't actually character flaws, there were many other things done by McLarty that I would really like to ask him about. Why the obsession with boobs? What really caught me off guard was that this obsession was not as apparent from the beginning of the book, and then somehow it seemed like every single woman was a pair of breasts. I'm sure some men think this way, but it didn't even seem to go with Smithy's character. And I personally hated it. Then there are the black people in the book... I don't even know what to say about it except I felt that I had stepped back into some really bad 70s movie written by someone who had never stepped foot into a black neighborhood and talked to the people who lived there. That really was the line for me. The whole scene in the projects made me want to vomit. (This may have come from McLarty reading to many scripts with unoriginal black characters in it.) Was this "journey" ultimately worth reading. I'd have to say "what journey?" It seemed like more of an episode in Smithy's life and the only thing accomplished was his easily lost alcoholism, weight, and visions of his sister. So , NO. There were things I liked about this book too. I really enjoyed his somewhat ambiguous relationship with his sister and family memories. However, I wish it wasn't put in such a formulaic manner. This story had real potential. Perhaps this book seems this way because it's his first novel. I do hope that his later books are better. I don't know if I'd read them though.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Baker

    WALK - DON'T RUN THROUGH THIS BOOK. The Memory of Running is a story you will want to take your time with. Let the emotions and characters wash over you slowly to absorb every drop. Smithson Ides (Smithy) is a middle-aged man whose life has been compounded with constant obstacles surrounding his sister, Bethany, who deals with severe mental issues. The toll taken and damage inflicted on Smithy and his parents was, at times, unbearable and as the story progressed I felt actual pain as Bethany WALK - DON'T RUN THROUGH THIS BOOK. The Memory of Running is a story you will want to take your time with. Let the emotions and characters wash over you slowly to absorb every drop. Smithson Ides (Smithy) is a middle-aged man whose life has been compounded with constant obstacles surrounding his sister, Bethany, who deals with severe mental issues. The toll taken and damage inflicted on Smithy and his parents was, at times, unbearable and as the story progressed I felt actual pain as Bethany struggled with her internal voices and wanted to scream out "don't". Bethany disappears in her early adult life, Smithy's parents die from an auto accident and Smithy is left a lonely, obese, aging man with no direction and little ambition. Upon finding a letter addressed to his now-deceased father, he discovers his sister's body has been discovered in Los Angeles. Alone and adrift, one night he uncovers his old boyhood bicycle and suddenly takes off down the open road to air the tires. Like a faint image of the book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, he can't seem to stop and without realizing why, sets off on a bicycle ride that will take him from Providence, Rhode Island to California; a ride that will take him from floundering to freedom; a ride that will fill his lungs to capacity with love and life. The chapters bounce back and forth from Smithy's childhood, to his early adult years and the drama his sister played in everyone's lives to his present situation and location. I will admit that I didn't read this book but listened to an audio version of it narrated by the author himself. Through the author's voice and diction, he made the constant and sometimes bumpy obstacle course from past to present, from present to past and from past to future seem relatively smooth and his voice lent a very descriptive feel to the image conjured up for Smith's appearance and personality. His journey was filled with numerous characters that I wanted to know better and follow as well. Needless to say, this was a story of coming of age (even at 43), embracing life without fear or reservation, accepting what has transpired in one's life and hope for what may be ahead. It was a beautiful story that I did not want to end. I was so engrossed in the story that I hurried through the 11 CDs and will now have to buy me a copy of the actual book so that I can re-read it at some time and savor every bite like a fine chocolate. A wonderful story for all ages.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    Probably one of my favorite road books. Just behind On the Road and Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    This novel eloquently describes a man's transformation following loss and a lifetime of failure. His goodness is slowly revealed as he discovers his purpose and finds love. Highly recommend.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Stephen King said the following about the audiobook in 2003, before the written book was published. By the time I'd read about the audiobook, the written book has been published and I read it. It was wonderful, I cared about the protagonist, and I'm so glad SK took the time to promote it! From Entertainment Weekly, 9/11/2003 column titled "Listen Up: The best book you can't read. No, "The Memory of Running" isn't in print, but you can still hear it." "My gig at EW isn't writing book reviews, but Stephen King said the following about the audiobook in 2003, before the written book was published. By the time I'd read about the audiobook, the written book has been published and I read it. It was wonderful, I cared about the protagonist, and I'm so glad SK took the time to promote it! From Entertainment Weekly, 9/11/2003 column titled "Listen Up: The best book you can't read. No, "The Memory of Running" isn't in print, but you can still hear it." "My gig at EW isn't writing book reviews, but I can still state with a fair degree of certainty that Ron McLarty's ''The Memory of Running'' is the best novel you won't read this year. But you can experience it, and I'm all but positive that you'll thank me for the tip if you do. ''Memory'' is the story of 279-pound Smithson Ide, a smokes-too-much, drinks-too-much, eats-too-much heart attack waiting to happen. I mean, this guy is a mess -- a lovely, addled mess. And then one day, Smithy finds himself riding across America with his ''fat ass'' hanging over the seat of his boyhood bicycle. He's on his way from Rhode Island to L.A. -- where he aims to retrieve his sister's body from the county morgue -- and along the road he meets a parade of colorful characters. Unlike Huck Finn's adventures, Smithy's don't amount to literature, but they are always entertaining and sometimes wildly funny. So why can't you read it? Because -- so far, at least -- no publisher will touch it with a 10-foot pole. Publishing houses, once proudly independent, are today little more than corporate wampum beads, their cultural clout all but gone. Novels that were neither dopey best-sellers (think James Patterson) nor dull ''serious fiction'' (think William Gaddis, Paul Auster, and their overpraised ilk) were one of the first things to go when the conglomerates took over. Dull or dopey: These days that's pretty much your choice at the bookstore. What place does that leave for Ron McLarty (an actor, playwright, and chronic insomniac who scribbled the tale of Smithy Ide in the wee hours of the morning, on a succession of yellow legal pads)? There should be a place, because -- you'll just have to trust me on this, at least for the time being -- Smithy is an American original, worthy of a place on the shelf just below your Hucks, your Holdens, and your Yossarians. And, thanks to a combination of luck and plain old coincidence, there is a place. One of Ron McLarty's day jobs, you see, is narrating for Recorded Books, a company that's been producing unabridged novels on audio since 1979. His boss is a woman named Claudia Howard, and one day four years ago McLarty showed Howard his novel, which had been turned down ''by the best in the business,'' as we say. She was charmed by Smithy and horrified by the fact that such a fine novel should not only not find an audience but not even find a chance to find one (if you see what I mean). So Howard did what she could do, which was to issue ''The Memory of Running'' as a Recorded Book. Which brings us to how you can experience the book: Visit www.recordedbooks.com and buy or rent the CD or cassette version of the book, as voiced by McLarty himself. This is why I say it may be the best book you won't read this year. You might listen to it on your Discman while jogging, or in your car while you're going to see Aunt Doris in Des Moines, but you won't actually read it. (I'm not even sure if the hero's Smithy or Smithie, because I've never seen his name in print.) Recent publishing history is full of worthy novels that were published only by the skin of their teeth. J.K. Rowling's maiden ''Harry Potter'' voyage was one. Then there's the sad case of John Kennedy Toole's ''A Confederacy of Dunces,'' published only after the despairing author had killed himself. (It then reached the best-seller list, which may or may not have been of some comfort to his surviving relatives.) The moral? It's a jungle out there, baby, and in a world where the corporate bottom line is god (or maybe the word I'm searching for is mammon), the strong survive but the worthy often do not. That ''The Memory of Running'' has found its own little performance stage is a miracle. I hope it won't be a wasted miracle. What I hope is that you'll order a copy and experience it for yourself; I hope, in fact, that EW readers will inundate Recorded Books with orders for Smithy (Smithie?) Ide's adventures. Let's make a little history here, what do you say? If that happens, the book probably will be published -- remember the corporate motto of the '90s and the double zeros: Money talks, bulls--- walks. This is a book that can do more than walk; it has a chance to be a breakout best-seller. No, it's not literature (please remember I said that), but it's bighearted and as satisfying as one of your mom's home-cooked Sunday dinners. So why not ride across America with Smithy and root for him as he loses weight, falls in love, and rediscovers life? You'll be striking a blow for the good old American novel. More important, you'll do the stuff good novels are supposed to make you do -- laugh a little, cry a little, maybe ride (or jog) an extra time around the block in order to find out what happens next. You'll also discover a fine American voice…and actually get to hear it talking. Do I want some of the credit if this nice thing happens? You know I do. Tell 'em Steve sent you."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bil Halim

    i didnt really get the whole things, what the writer wanna convey in this.i didnt finish this, i made myself finish.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Swati

    This is going on my unfinished shelf, unfortunately.

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