Monday, October 29, 2007

Get out the tissues, and read this book

I've had a great run with books lately, as I recently bragged. But one of the best I've read is The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty.

My parents have a habit of leaving the same magazine in the bathroom for weeks or months at a time. being the compulsive reader that I am, I essentially had Stephen King's screed about this book and the publishing industry from Entertainment Magazine memorized at one point. King was mad because while he thought the book was truly excellent, it had no chance of seeing the light of day because it didn't contain any Prada shoes or Russian subs or serial killers.

Reading the book, I can see why King liked it so much. After that incident with Gerald's Game where I didn't sleep for about six weeks after reading it, I stay away from most of his work, just for my own mental health. I've enjoyed some of his non-scary stuff in the past, though, and this book reminds me a lot of some of that. It's set in New England, and everyone in it drinks regional beer and likes the Red Sox (hmmm, maybe it is a horror novel after all!!!!!).

It's very sad, just to warn you. If you've experienced any losses in your own life, you might want to wait on this one. The book opens with Smithy, a middle-aged overweight self-proclaimed loser, cleaning up the cottage after a fishing trip with his parents. They went back a day early while he dealt with returning the boat and cleaning and all. On the way home, they were in a car crash and both died hours apart. After the funeral, Smithy's parents receive a letter from a morgue in Los Angeles stating that they have the body of Smithy's only remaining family member, his older sister, Bethany. In shock, Smithy goes out to the garage and does a surprising thing. He gets on his old bicycle, and rides and rides and rides, out to L.A. to get his sister.

The novel is two stories in one: the story of Smithy's ride across the country, the people he meets, and his journey back to some semblance of himself, and of a life; and the story of Smithy's childhood and how his sister Bethany wound up in a morgue after having disappeared from their hometown nearly 20 years earlier. It's hard to put into words why I liked this one so much, except maybe that it seemed like real life, and it really made you feel. I'm pleased that this one saw the light of day, and I urge you all to take advantage.

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