Summary and book reviews of The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

The Memory of Running

by Ron McLarty

The Memory of Running
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 358 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2006, 384 pages

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Book Summary

A story of families and friendships, of mental illness and addiction, of growing up and growing older, of first loves and second chances and of one man's journey across America toward personal redemption.

Once in a great while, a story comes along that has everything: plot, setting, and, most important of all, the kind of characters that sweep readers up and take them on a thrilling, unforgettable ride. Well, get ready for Ron McLarty's The Memory of Running because, as Stephen King wrote in Entertainment Weekly, "Smithy is an American original, worthy of a place on the shelf just below your Hucks, your Holdens, your Yossarians."

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, including Smithy's own, he's a loser. But when Smithy's life of quiet desperation is brutally interrupted by tragedy, he stumbles across his old Raleigh bicycle and impulsively sets off on an epic journey that might give him one last chance to become the person he always wanted to be. As he pedals across America—with stops in New York City, St. Louis, Denver, and Phoenix, to name a few—he encounters humanity at its best and worst and adventures that are by turns hilarious, luminous, and extraordinary. Along the way, Smithy falls in love and back into life.

McLarty's novel has already received significant attention for its unusual genesis as an audiobook. Now, in a major publishing event, we herald the arrival of a major new voice in American fiction with his stunning debut, The Memory of Running.

This book was first published as an audio book exclusive by Recorded Books (August 2002).

1

My parents' Ford wagon hit a concrete divider on U.S. 95 outside Biddeford, Maine, in August 1990. They'd driven that stretch of highway for maybe thirty years, on the way to Long Lake. Some guy who used to play baseball with Pop had these cabins by the lake and had named them for his children. Jenny. Al. Tyler. Craig. Bugs. Alice and Sam. We always got Alice for two weeks in August, because it had the best waterfront, with a shallow, sandy beach, and Mom and Pop could watch us while they sat in the green Adirondack chairs.

We came up even after Bethany had gone, and after I had become a man with a job. I'd go up and be a son, and then we'd all go back to our places and be regular people.

Long Lake has bass and pickerel and really beautiful yellow perch. You can't convince some people about yellow perch, because perch have a thick, hard lip and are coarse to touch, but they are pretty fish—I think the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
"Sometimes there are moments when a person has to make a decision, as opposed to just letting things just happen. A person then has to happen himself. I have never done this. Life bounced off me, and bounced me, and now it was going to bounce me to death." —from The Memory of Running (p. 77)

The Memory of Running is a road novel, the story of one man's journey across America toward personal redemption. It's also a story of families and friendships, a story of mental illness and addiction, a story of Vietnam and AIDS, a story of growing up and growing older, a story of first loves and second chances—in short, a novel that traverses a whole landscape of American themes and preoccupations.

...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

The pain of the loser permeates actor/playwright McLarty's first novel, part road story, part tragedy....A dreary tale of woe, with none of the dark places illuminated.

Publishers Weekly

It's a funny, poignant, slightly gawky debut that aims, like its protagonist, to please—and usually does.

Library Journal

Stuck without a publisher for this first novel, actor McLarty did an audio original with Recorded Books that Stephen King raved about in Entertainment Weekly. But how many people know that it was actually librarian Tia Maggio (Middleburg PL, VA) who brought the book to the attention of agent Jeff Kleinman? Maggio fell in love with the tape, used it in a book group (some listeners cried), and even got the author to come and read from the manuscript. The characters are all so real, she explains of the book's appeal. Eventually, the book was sold to Viking for $2 million, with a Warner's deal and the sale of rights to 12 countries quickly following. Not bad for the gentle tale of washed-up Smithy Ide, who takes an impulsive bike ride across America to search for his sister.

Author Blurb Wally Lamb
Riders who hop onto the back of Smithy Ide's bike and ride America with him will cherish the journey. I loved this sad, funny, life-affirming novel.

Author Blurb Stephen King
This is a book that can do more than walk; it has a chance to be a breakout bestseller...Smithy is an American original, worthy of a place on the shelf just below your Hucks, your Holdens, your Yossarians.

Reader Reviews

JP Bookseller

This is a terrific novel about Smitty, an everyman, someone you think you know. His nowhere life takes a turn around, and you, the reader are taken along for the ride. The characters throughout the book are rich, well developed, and familiar. A ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Ron McLarty is an award-winning actor and playwright. He came to New York thirty years ago to become a writer. He was a regular on the series Spenser: For Hire and has appeared more recently on The Practice, Law & Order, and Sex and the City. He has also appeared in many films and on the stage, where he has directed many of his own plays. He is currently working on a movie of The Memory of Running.  He lives in New York City with his actress wife, Kate Skinner.

In answer to the question, 'How much did your own life experience influence the creation of your characters ...

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