“Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary McManus

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Createspace. 236 pp.

ComingHomeMary McManus incorporates memories, as well as present-time events, to tell the story of her life after contracting polio at the age of five. Despite recovering from this disease she faced years of physical, mental and emotional abuse from her parents and grandmother.

Over the years the stresses brought on by these abuses accumulated in her body causing severe physical problems, and resulting in a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome when Mary was just a few years away from retirement. Physicians and therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as other health caregivers, worked together to give Mary the spiritual, physical and emotional strength she needed to heal her body from its trauma.

Determined to do something meaningful with her newfound feeling of mental and physical strength, Mary decided to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding Rehab. Triumphantly crossing the finish line of the marathon was just one of Mary’s many accomplishments described in “Coming Home,” as she valiantly worked to regain the person she had lost at the age of five and rewrite her past.

Mary is a fellow member of my running club, the L Street Running Club in South Boston. After reading her self-published life story, I have to salute the courage and strength she displayed in working through extreme trials which a young girl should have never had to endure, and which led to the beautiful and generous person she has become today. Mary, you are a survivor and I salute you!

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I try not to read self-published books because of the amount of grammatical errors usually contained within them. However, since Mary was generous enough to donate part of the proceeds of her book to a reputable charity, and is a fellow club member, I felt I should read her book and learn about her story. I was able to put aside my editing hat and read Mary’s story for its rawness and truthfulness. I gave it a 4 star rating for its content, and trust you will agree when you read it.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Night Runner” Brian P. Wallace

Rated 2 stars ** 2012. Bryanna Wallace Enterprises. 443 pp.

NightRunnerCliff Walker had everything going for him. He was an all around athlete, especially excelling at baseball. His father had been a top prospect for the Red Sox, and it looked like Cliff was on his way to greatness. Suddenly he disappeared off the face of the sports world.

Fast forward to Cliff’s sessions in a psychiatric hospital where he’d been taken after attempting suicide. Through the help of his doctor, he learned he suffers from Depression and Agoraphobia. Running is the only thing that lessens his anxiety so, upon his release, Cliff begins a nightly routine of logging long and fast miles through his South Boston neighborhood.

Through the actions of his best friends, Cliff is soon being trained for the Boston Marathon and is expected to become the first American to defeat the Kenyans since Greg Meyer did so in 1983. The only problem with this plan is Cliff can’t run during the daytime or his Agoraphobia kicks in big time.

Wallace throws in humor along with the names of well known sports writers, anchors, reporters, and runners as well as Boston and South Boston clubs and notables. Set in South Boston, “Night Runner” is full of lingo from the area which may prove difficult to understand for those not from “Southie” (such as  the many references to “13,909.”) I had to ask someone from the South Boston area what that meant. I won’t spill it here, but will see if you can figure it out yourself if you decide to read “Night Runner” or not.

“Night Runner” has a really nice storyline and moved me to tears a few times, so I will recommend it to Adult readers. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with self published books, I have to say some may be thrown by blatant errors in grammar and spelling which appear constantly throughout the book. I almost read it with a red pen in hand, but forced myself to get out of correction mode and to just read it for its storyline. It was hard as errors were blatantly on almost every page, but if I can do it you can too.

“Overthinking the Marathon” Ray Charbonneau

Y42K Book Publishing Services. 2012. 260 pp.

OverthinkingTheMarathon“Overthinking the Marathon” is made up of various blog posts written in preparation for the author’s running of the Cape Cod Marathon. Ray has been competing in various races of all distances for many years, and wants to run a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time at his upcoming marathon. He decides to experiment, and “Overthinking the Marathon” is the result.

Charbonneau can’t get his head around what type of training he wants to do for Cape Cod, seesawing back and forth between running hard when he should be resting, testing new methods when old ones worked fine, bemoaning his age, and generally over thinking everything. Beginner runners using his program would be completely confused and injured before they reached the starting line, while more established runners might want to try some of his methods with the caveat that they might get a BQ but could also get sidelined with injuries.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re an established runner who wants to train for a BQ the Charbonneau Way, using unorthodox methods of running/racing/training through ultras, 5 milers, 5 k’s and Yasso 800’s while also cross training on a bike and using bunnies for inspiration, then this book is for you.