The Memory of Running
Smithy doesn’t have much going for him
By Ron McLarty
(Reviewed by Nancy Jelinek)
[amazon cover 0143036688]
When he was young, Smithson “Smithy” Ide was a thin young man who could run or bike long distances without working up a sweat. Now, at age 43, Smithy is a good guy who doesn’t have much going right for him. Even he thinks of himself as a loser. He drinks and eats to excess. He has few friends but is blessed with a loving family.
Unfortunately, his parents are killed in a car accident on the way home from a vacation at the lake with Smithy.
Drunk and struggling with grief after their funeral, he finds a letter from the City of Los Angeles Department of Health. The body of Smithy’s long-lost sister, Bethany, has been identified from dental records provided by Smithy’s father. The morgue will hold her body until the family contacts them. This last blow takes his breath away: Smithy has lost his parents and his beloved, schizophrenic sister in a week’s time. His answer to “What am I gonna do?” is to take the ride of his life on his old Raleigh bike.
Smithy leaves his home in East Providence, Rhode Island, still wearing his funeral suit, with a dollar in his pocket and no identification. His first companions on this unplanned adventure across the country are the aches and pains of being terribly out of shape. Smithy is haunted by visions of Bethany and memories of their past. As he quietly shares his story with strangers, they feel comfortable in talking about their pasts, too.
Smithy has more than his share of hair-raising escapades: going over a waterfall on his bike; rescuing a young boy in a blizzard; staying with a dying man after he’s nearly run over Smithy. Best of all, Smithy reconnects with Norma, a childhood friend. She follows his cross-country trek via telephone calls from Smithy as he pedals his way toward Los Angeles, his sister, and release.
Author Ron McLarty is a character actor. The Memory of Running was first available only as an audiobook. It was published after Stephen King called it “the best book you can’t read.”
Published January 5, 2009
Silver Planet Book Review Columnist