24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2007
Parker has written a worthy sequel to OAR. While the book stands up well by itself, if you view it as an extension of the original story and read them sequentially, I think it makes the new novel a more meaningful tale.
Parker's eye for detail remains impeccable, and he never loses sight of the fact that Cassidy's journey is about life as much as it is about running.
For the runners out there, be assured that John once again captures the elements of our sport that make it so dear to us. The workouts, the sacrifice and the racing are all there, and the more mature Cassidy is a logical extension of the original character.
The slightly off-kilter wit of JLP has has survived intact, adding to the pleasure of the read.
The wait was long, but I was not disappointed. I recommend this book highly to all of my fellow runners.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The long-awaited sequel to Once a Runner picks up on silver medalist Quenton Cassidy's life as a thirty-something practicing law in a small Palm Beach firm. While he still runs recreationally, Cassidy seems content to have traded his years of self-denial for a comfortable Hemingway-esque lifestyle of drinking, boating, and skin diving. A series of personal events lead him to re-examine his life, however, forcing a realization that he will never be completely fulfilled unless he is aspiring toward personal improvement, in the way that only a runner committed to serious training can be.
Just as Once a Runner nails the feelings of the competitive schoolboy runner, Again to Carthage captures the mindset of the middle-aged athlete who struggles to come to terms with the inevitability of physical decline. As one would expect, Parker's training and racing scenes are beautifully and convincingly rendered. What's equally impressive, are his descriptions of nature, fishing, and the mountain lifestyle of Cassidy's relatives. If he goes a bit heavy on the details at times, particularly in the middle chapters concerning Cassidy's family, these passages flesh out Cassidy as a person and ultimately reward the patient reader. My only other knocks on the book are the occasional awkwardness of Parker's prose, the inclusion of several plot contrivances, and the penchant for odd, anecdotal humor. Even these shortcomings, though, become kind of welcomely familiar for those of us who love Once a Runner and crave a similar reading experience.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2008
As someone who loved OAR (and has read it several times), I was eagerly anticipating reading Again to Carthage. Parker does a great job when he writes about training and racing, but ATC is a literary jumble, with lots of purple prose, extraneous characters that haphazardly come and go, and a rambling storyline. The writing is mediocre (and filled with typos)... until you get to the race description, which is truly awesome. You have to suffer through 300 pages to get there, but it's worth the price of admission. A mixed bag, for sure.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2007
John L. Parker Jr.'s Once a Runner was - and still is - the best book ever written about the world of the serious, elite distance runner. (Cassidy, though a miler then, clearly trained as a distance runner.) Again to Carthage isn't likely to have the same success as its predecessor, but I suspect Parker will be okay with that. It seems clear he wrote this book primarily for himself and to honor his family and friends - and with the sure knowledge that both they and his more distant readers who have endured countless long miles - and life itself - will be captured by this tale of the older Cassidy/Parker.
A few readers, perhaps attracted to its lovely cover and the accolades for Once a Runner on the back , may come to this book new, but most will have read OAR. To the latter let me urge you not to expect to find simply further adventures of the college-age Cassidy. This book, too, has running as its center, but it is in many ways more ambitious and mature. Parker has done a great deal of living since those days. He has much he wants to say. And it is virtually all written with grace and passion.
I'm sure Parker had many doubts about writing a sequel to a book as loved as Once a Runner. I am glad he dared to do so - and had the courage to make it much more than a sequel.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2007
"Once A Runner" is pretty much considered "required reading" for any serious runner. Any runner who read the first book can find something to identify with in Quenton Cassidy's "trials of the miles"
I always wondered if we would ever get a sequel as the end of "Once A Runner" was pretty open ended. "Again to Carthage" had been in the works for a long time and had been long delayed. I had pretty much given up on it until I saw the article on it (and interview with John Parker) in Runner's World. I remember gently teasing my son when he was waiting for the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" to come out and realized I was just like him with this book. It came in the mail over Turkey Day break, so I stayed up all night and read it cover to cover after my wife and son hit the sack.
OK, so was it worth it? I'd say very much so! Am I going to re-cap the entire story in this review? Hell No, I won't ruin it for you. What I will say is that the story picks up several years after the events of "Once A Runner" and that our hero has settled into a fairly successful life as a lawyer (and recreational runner). However, he starts to get that "feeling" of wanting another mountain to climb. A couple of tragic events involving those close to him kick him into action. This time the challenge is making the Olympic Marathon Team.
To help him, he once again calls on his buddy and fellow Olympic medalist Bruce Denton to provide coaching and inspiration. While there isn't as much detail in specific training like in "OAR" you still feel like you are with Quenton every step of the way.
So what happens at the end? Sorry can't tell ya! :) I WILL say this. Runners World editor Amby Burfoot reviewed "Again to Carthage" (you can find it on the net). He said, "The last three paragraphs are perfect". When I got to the end of the book and read them, I grinned and said "Hear Hear". Read it and see if you agree. Like me, you will probably see it coming, but it is satisfying nonetheless!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2008
I had to put this book down a few times because I did not believe that a sequel to OAR had little to do with running. However, as I was reading about his law practice, his vacation in Bermuda, his lack of relationships and on and on...I realized that this is the boring life of anyone. I realized that he needs purpose and significance and since he was once a runner, he returns to running. When this occurs is when I become captivated by Parker's explanation of why we run, how it makes us feel, and how we envy seeing someone run effortlessly and knowing the power and joy that carries them. Parker's explanation of this is what makes the book worth while.
I am mostly a trail runner and that is why I liked Parker's description of where Quenton trained. He went back to basics. And isn't that all running is.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2011
If you've ever been a runner or an athlete of any sort, you'll enjoy this book. Even if you're a non-athlete, you'll be able to appreciate the story and the internal struggles endured by athletes like the main character. John L. Parker's followup to his original ONCE A RUNNER novel is a page-turner for anyone who's dreamed of achieving lofty goals. The author helps the reader understand the mind of an elite distance runner as he battles the miles and learns more about himself and his limits. And Parker's style makes this an easy-to-read book that you won't want to put down. As he did in ONCE A RUNNER, he structures the book with chapters that are sometimes as short as 2 pages. For someone like me who always thinks, "I'll just read one more chapter and then turn out the light," the frequent short chapters helped to keep the pages turning as "one more" chapter turned into three more and seven more, etc.
We meet up with Cassidy again a number of years removed from college and his achievements in the Olympics. Now, as a fully employed attorney living on the Florida coast, Cassidy enjoys life and work but still has this competitive streak he just can't put aside. After a succession of family and personal tragedies, it's as if he suffers a mid-life crisis (despite most likely being in his late 20's/early 30's) and yearns to re-live his college days as an elite athlete at Southeastern. He decides to take on the marathon and aims to make the Olympic marathon team. He reunites with Bruce Denton, the gold-medal Olympian who coached him through his last race as a collegiate miler, and embarks on a journey to attempt to be one of only a handful of people who could run a sub 4 minute mile and a sub 2:10 marathon. During this process, Cassidy reflects on his life and his goals. In the final pages, Parker helps the reader truly empathize with Cassidy and understand what it's like to run a marathon: the pain, the wild thoughts and the misperception on the part of the athlete regarding just how well he's doing. During the last 20-30 pages, you simply can't put the book down. It's a great end to a great story, with a final twist that I didn't see coming (even though I knew the historical context).
This book is essentially two books. During the first third or so, we learn about Cassidy's life now that he's graduated college and law school. The author describes in sufficient detail what it's like to live and play in the 1970's as a lawyer in the sunshine state. The book takes on a whole different direction after only a hundred pages or so when Cassidy travels to his boyhood home after the death of a family member. This part is where the story really gets interesting, in my opinion. After that event, the book becomes focused on Cassidy's training for the Olympic marathon trials under the tutelage of his friend, Denton. The author does an outstanding job helping the reader "feel" what Cassidy is enduring, both personally and physically. If you've ever trained for a marathon or even a 5k, you'll be able to identify with much of this part of story. If you've never run, you'll simply have a greater understanding of what it takes.
Bottom line, this is a great read and an entertaining story you won't want to put down.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2009
I'll be honest: when I first started reading Again to Carthage, I was disappointed, because it didn't offer the same intensity of breathless (but inspiring) running narrative. However, as I kept reading, I came to appreciate that Again to Carthage was a fitting book for both an older protagonist and an older novelist: while Once a Runner may still be a better motivational tool for high school and college kids (who can center their lives on their sport), Again to Carthage will resonate with readers like me, who are on the graying side of 30 and who have to instead fit their sport into the bigger context of love, family, friends, and work. Furthermore, of course, this book will touch anyone who listens to Springsteen's "Glory Days" and nods with familiarity, anyone who knows that their athletic peak may be behind them, but is still fighting the inevitable march of time.
If you just picked up the book to get more of that reader's high from Parker's running descriptions, you'll have a hard time not being impatient, because it's over halfway through the book that Quenton makes the crucial decision to train seriously once again. However, it's clear that the author has made good use of the intervening years, because more so than in his previous book, Parker makes worthwhile and wise observations about running, sports generally, life in the South, and much more, many of which observations have been copied down into my Moleskine. Parker's prose also feels better crafted, as one would hope from a mature, experienced author; with Once a Runner, I would recommend it strictly as a running book (but make caveats about the less-effective departures from the core subject matter), whereas with Again to Carthage I could recommend it as a whole. Sprinkled liberally throughout are bon mots such as "she was a little wire bent-over question mark of a woman" and "a squalling infant of pain."
The final specific way that I would like to credit Parker's development as a writer is the strong sense of place throughout the book, something common to great books, and a clear step up from his previous work. From the balmy humidity of Palm Beach, to the lazy fishing in the Bahamas, to the quiet retreat of the cabin in the Carolina hills, Again to Carthage is filled with a suffusing sense of, and love for, the South--its people, its food, its weather and its quirks. Parker has lived in the South for many years, and he does an admirable job of conveying his corner of the country.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2008
I was overanxious at the beginning of this book to get back to the very clear, and precise running descriptions of Once A Runner. I was a little purturbed that it did not happen right away. Instead, Parker took time to build his characters, recount history, and lay the foundation for everything that went on during the "mental circus act" of the marathon. During this time, the events of Once A Runner, and the 1st half of Again to Carthage were brought together beautifully. My initial misunderstanding of what Parker was laying out at the beginning of the book was erased as the book went on. Kudos to Parker for showing a lot of maturity and wisdom from were he began in Once A Runner to were he is now in Again to Carthage. Running is not life; however, there are many paralles between the two. Again to Carthage is the perfect balance.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2008
John L. Parker has clearly given a lot of thought to an athlete's aging and the ways in which the bodies that work so beautifully when we're young begin to be a little less reliable. Overcoming the encroachments of age, as Quenton Cassidy does, makes for some thrilling descriptions of running and racing. Be forewarned, though, that those running scens are rather sparingly doled out--at one point it seemed like the sequel to "Once A Runner" would have been more accurately titled "Now a Fisherman." But, like running itself, pushing through the tedious patches sets you up for a rewarding finish.