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The Memory of Running

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  9,227 Ratings  ·  1,360 Reviews
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 li
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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17th out of 115 books — 145 voters
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118th out of 200 books — 148 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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B the BookAddict
Jun 11, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Elaine's bookshelf
Shelves: favorites, fiction

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 ri
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 accid
Jan 22, 2008 Jessica rated it liked it
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).
Apr 25, 2007 Missy rated it it was amazing
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!
Oct 07, 2007 Marisa rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 06, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
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.
Doug Bradshaw
Jan 14, 2010 Doug Bradshaw rated it really liked it
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
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 disappeare
Mar 24, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mike by: Melissa Bower
Shelves: fiction
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
Rich Stoehr
May 10, 2010 Rich Stoehr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"...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
Jul 22, 2007 Maureen rated it it was amazing
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 revea
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 ...more
J. Yandell
Jan 01, 2009 J. Yandell rated it liked it
Recommended to J. by: Stephen King
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 physica
Nov 07, 2012 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fic
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 ...more
Theresa Mannix
Nov 12, 2007 Theresa Mannix rated it liked it
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 ...more
Nancy Baker
Aug 27, 2014 Nancy Baker rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jun 06, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 02, 2011 Debra rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A lovely tale of a man who sets out on a cross-country bike ride after learning that his older sister has died a Jane Doe in Los Angeles in the same week his elderly parents are killed in a car wreck. Alternating between his present journey from his home in Rhode Island and the events that led up to his mentally ill sister leaving the family home as a teenager, Smithson "Smithy" Ide sets out on a journey of self discovery and reclaims his life. An overweight, drunken slob at the beginning of ...more
Oct 20, 2007 Janel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The main character in this book is truly unique. Smith Ide is a middle aged overweight beer guzzling smoker with a dead end job as quality check employee. He is a good son to his parents who are still mourning the disappearance of his older sister who suffered from mental illness. Smithy's parents die in a car accident and Smithy must face lsoing them and then finding out that his sister has died in California. Smithy takes off on a bike and rides across country to pick up his sister's body. ...more
May 19, 2011 Christy rated it did not like it
I rarely, if ever find a book that I am unable to finish. I like to give each book a fair chance and am a firm believer that if I have not read the entire book, then I cannot make a fair judgement. I have still not finished this book. I was ecstatic when I found it on sale at B&N for $4 but when I reached the half way point in the book and realized I didn't care what happened to the main character AT ALL, I decided it was time to stop wasting my time. Don't waste yours.
Jun 07, 2016 Lance rated it it was amazing
Probably one of my favorite road books. Just behind On the Road and Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed.
I loved this book and all the others I have read by this author. He tells a great, uplifting story with great characters. His characters are people that I would like to know.
Mar 28, 2011 Gary rated it liked it
> The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
> New York: Viking Press - 2004
> $24.95 - 358 pages
> "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 book.” In some respects it resembles what critics in th
Joy H.
_The Memory of Running_ (1999) by Ron McLarty
Added 4/7/11
I am currently listening to an audio version of this book. The author seems to jump around; can't seem to stay one subject; he rambles from one subject to the next without finishing what he was previously saying. Annoying.

I heard about this book via a Goodreads group. One of the members said that this was her favorite audio book. Hmmmm.

I listened to 4 out of the 11 discs in this set. The plot is very thin. I've decided not to finis
Dec 02, 2011 Kit★ rated it really liked it
I was waffling back and forth on what to give this book. 4 Stars? 5 Stars? I'm still not real sure. I think I'll stick with 4 Stars though. I picked this book up almost a year ago from the Goodwill, solely on the pretty cover and the recommendation from my most favorite author ever, Stephen King. The blurb sounded interesting too, but without the King rec, I probably wouldn't have bought it since I don't read a whole lot of regular "mainstream" type fiction. I can say for certain though that I'm ...more
Book Concierge
Recorded book, read by the author

Smithson Ide (Smithy) is 43, a self-described loser working at a toy factory, friendless, a chain-smoker, a drunk and seriously overweight (279 lbs), when a family tragedy pushes him to DO something. Coming across his old Raleigh bicycle in a corner of his parents’ garage, Smithy starts pedaling … and then keeps pedaling on a journey across America and towards a new life.

The novel is told in alternating chapters – one giving the background on the Ide fami
Amy Holiday
May 26, 2014 Amy Holiday rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time, at least the best I've read in 2014. I don't mind giving books five stars, if I like them, but just every so often, there's a book like this that makes all the others seem so inadequate. Throws off the curve.

It's about a guy in a dead-end life, going through the motions of being a functional 43 year old with the help of too much alcohol and the constant, unspoken support of his parents. But when they die in a car accident, he discovers tha
Jul 18, 2009 DROPPING OUT rated it it was amazing
I read the author's second book, Traveler, first and I gave it four stars because the book touched me in many ways. I had not intended to read his first book so soon, except I picked it up off my crowded night-stand in error. I'll be the first to admit I had trouble getting into as quickly as the second book, and I had trouble liking the protagonist, an obese (275 lbs) chain-smoking alcoholic in his late forties. (Frankly, I wonder if McLarty lost track of his age, for he was seventeen when he ...more
Jun 03, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
This book was originally published as an audio book and, in fact, Stephen King called it "The Best Book You Can't Read". Later the rights were sold to Viking and the book was released in hard cover. I listened to the author read the book and, for me, I think that my experience was enhanced by listening to the audio. Smithson "Smithy" Ide describes himself as a loser. And why not? At age 43, he is a grossly overweight, chain-smoking, friendless, drunk. Then in the course of a week, Smithy's ...more
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a lovable loser in Rhode Island 9 62 Oct 26, 2014 06:35AM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Memory of Running Review by Jess Neumuth 1 7 Jul 03, 2013 09:40AM  
What's The Name o...: Fiction--fat guy, sister died, rides a bike [s] 3 66 Jul 16, 2012 11:11AM  
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A native of East Providence, RI—Ron McLarty is a veteran actor, accomplished playwright, prolific audiobook narrator and acclaimed novelist.

McLarty is also noted for his body of work as one of the country’s leading audiobook narrators having done over 100 titles including the narration of books authored by Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Richard Russo, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, David Baldacci and S
More about Ron McLarty...

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“Good people protect people they love even if that means that pretending that everything is okay.” 26 likes
“Good books that often I would hate to finish because they took me into their lives and let me out of mine, for a while anyway.” 14 likes
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