A Beginner’s Guide to Running is a novel of fabulous contradictions. It’s a light-hearted, hilarious story about the aftermath of domestic violence and bereavement. It’s a sweary, alcohol-fuelled romp about finding yourself in the relentlessness of single parenting.
It made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe, cry until my head hurt and indulge in more than one fist pump.
What it’s about
After Lucinda’s controlling husband suffers a fatal asthma attack at the kitchen table in their London flat one morning the first question on everyone’s minds seems to be: ‘Did you kill him?’. Not because they think Lucinda is homicidal but because her husband was thoroughly unbearable and they wouldn’t have really blamed her if she did knock him off.
Her two young kids don’t seem particularly fussed by Dad’s untimely demise either.
Lucinda packs up the flat and moves herself and the kids in with her parents while she tries to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.
Oh, and she eventually takes up running, thanks to a very strange Russian woman named Svetlana.
Expect hilarious parenting anecdotes and plenty of swearing
If you’re a reader of author Lisa Shearon’s very funny blog, The Notorious MUM you’ll have an idea of what to expect. This is exactly the book you always hoped she’d write and you should definitely grab yourself a copy ASAP.
If you don’t know Lisa through her blog or Facebook page, she’s written a few words to explain A Beginner’s Guide to Running:
This book was written for the mums who are a little bit left of centre, a little bit awkward, a little bit forgetful. They lose track of free-dress days, they take their children to school on the wrong kindy day and they put anchovies instead of oranges into crunch ‘n’ sip containers. They are not super mum. They are not hashtag blessed. They’re just a girl, standing in front of the clock, counting down the minutes until bedtime.
Unlike the title suggests, the novel isn’t actually about running, but rather, a slightly awkward woman’s struggle to figure out where she fits, after her controlling husband dies.
A few of my favourite bits
I do a lot of my reading on commuter trains in and out of the city. I spent several train journeys reading this book and trying really hard not to tear up or do actual fist pumps. Here are a few quotes from the dozens of pages I marked out to come back to later.
Svetlana the crazy Russian lady is bizarre and hilarious. She hates her children, drinks all day long and likes to run. She also has some fairly unorthodox ideas about parenting:
“BE GOOD FOR YOUR MOTHER,” Svetlana boomed. “BE GOOD FOR YOUR MOTHER, OR I WILL CRUSH YOU.” As she punched her fist into her opposite palm, Sam squeaked, and quickly pulled his pyjama bottoms on.
And we all have stories about when our kids say weird things entirely out of context and you have to explain it to strangers:
“Yeah! Let’s go see new daddy!”
The three elderly women at the bus-stop looked at Terry, and then at Lucinda, and then back at Terry, just in time for him to tell them:
“My old daddy’s dead! And my new daddy has a boyfriend.”
“It’s a very modern arrangement,” Lucinda said, shrugging.
It’s not all s$%ts and giggles, there are some fairly serious sections. But just when you think the story might be getting a bit too serious and reflective on you, you get passages like this:
“I’m a social anthropologist, by profession.”
“Fucking hell, I thought you were just a mum.”
“There’s no such thing,” Joanna Ferris replied, furrowing her brow and looking at Lucy intently. “No one in this world is just a mum, not even that fucking awful Jane.”
“Yeah, cos she’s a psychopath, too.”
“Exactly. She’s far more than just a mum.”
I really loved this book. It’s so refreshingly different and it’s quintessentially Lisa Shearon. The only question I have now that I’ve finished reading the book is: When do we get another Lisa Shearon book?