This excellent novel reminded me of The Lovely Bones, although it’s completely different. Both start with death, with the protagonist working through their family and themselves dealing with it, then closure at the end of the story; however, The Lovely Bones’ protagonist is a dead 14 year old. The Memory Of Running‘s protagonist is a chain-smoking, forty-three year old alcoholic with no life:
…people tended to form quick opinions of me when I stood there fat and drunk and cigarette-stained in front of them. Even reasonable people go for an immediate response. Drunk. Fat. A smoky-burned aroma.
He rides across America on a bicycle, trying to come to terms with his life: his insane sister, dead parents, regrets, and how he got where he is. It’s a painful ride at first (physically and emotionally), but his telling of his past and the people he meets on his journey helps him survive the journey. I’m making it sound sappy, but it isn’t. The guy is a little nuts, but he has a great story to tell.
The author writes well, making you feel not only for the main character, but everyone he writes about. He hits home sometimes:
You have to learn to look at someone you truly adore through eyes that really aren’t your own. It’s as if a person has to become another person altogether to be able to take a hard look. Good people protect people they love, even if that means pretending that everything is okay.
…I was a loner who wished not to be alone. It’s something I have thought about and thought about, and I now feel that at any given time there are a lot of lonely loners out there. We just don’t understand the process of making some friends. The complicated format of friendship. It’s not easy.
Yeah, people who know me can see why those struck home, but don’t let my admiration dissuade you: this is a funny, touching novel. It isn’t a work of literature with a capital “L”; it’s a good novel. It’ll make you laugh, might make you cry, make you empathetic for the characters, and reminiscent about your past and life, giving you something to think about, although not in a deep way. You’ll smile when you put the book down after reading a chapter or two. He tells a good story.