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The Memory of Running

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  10,588 ratings  ·  1,496 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
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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Jennifer Adams I wondered, until the end, if she were a creation of Smithy's -- a wishful thinking on his part to compensate for his guilt at ignoring her all those…moreI wondered, until the end, if she were a creation of Smithy's -- a wishful thinking on his part to compensate for his guilt at ignoring her all those years ago.(less)
Mark Day No. Smithy is traumatised by his life experiences and he has responded by withdrawing into himself along with destructive behavior. The bike trip…moreNo. Smithy is traumatised by his life experiences and he has responded by withdrawing into himself along with destructive behavior. The bike trip ended up being his catharsis and a life affirming event.(less)

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3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,588 ratings  ·  1,496 reviews


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B the BookAddict
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Elaine's bookshelf
Shelves: fiction, favorites
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
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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
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Jessica
Jan 22, 2008 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).
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
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.
Missy
Apr 25, 2007 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!
Marisa
Oct 07, 2007 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.
Debbie Zapata
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019sundaze
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.
Doug Bradshaw
Jan 02, 2010 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
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Amy
Jan 05, 2008 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.
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 disappeare
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Jacob Proffitt
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 i
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Mike
Mar 24, 2009 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
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J. Yandell
Jan 01, 2009 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
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Maureen Duffy
Jul 22, 2007 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
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Rich Stoehr
May 10, 2010 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
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Bark (2 Dumb 2 Read Blurbs)
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
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 runnin
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Victoria
Jun 11, 2010 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
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 gu ...more
Chris Dietzel
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Theresa Mannix
Sep 28, 2007 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
Kater Cheek
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
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Nancy Baker
Aug 11, 2014 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 str ...more
Lance
Sep 22, 2008 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.
Judy
Jun 06, 2012 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.
Debra
Mar 13, 2011 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
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Bil Halim
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
i didnt really get the whole things, what the writer wanna convey in this.i didnt finish this, i made myself finish.
Swati
Jul 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
This is going on my unfinished shelf, unfortunately.
Kit★
Apr 13, 2011 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
Betsy
Mar 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: 2012, novels
I read this book because I wanted to partake in the Elizabeth Bank's book club on her site. I would not have chosen it otherwise.

I have no idea how it is/was a National Bestseller. The story is about a man in his 40s who is overweight, a smoker, an alcoholic, and has a dead-end job. His parents are both killed in a car accident and his older sister, who suffers from a severe mental illness, has been missing for decades. The only people left in his life now are his aunt/uncle and the crippled gi
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a lovable loser in Rhode Island 9 63 Oct 26, 2014 06:35AM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Memory of Running Review by Jess Neumuth 1 8 Jul 03, 2013 09:40AM  
What's the Name o...: Fiction--fat guy, sister died, rides a bike [s] 3 76 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
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“Good people protect people they love even if that means that pretending that everything is okay.” 29 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.” 17 likes
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