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The Long Run

The Long Run

3.5 8
by Leo Furey

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From a hill above town, the Mount Kildare Orphanage for Boys looks down on the small city of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The year is 1960. The orphanage is always cold, there is never enough to eat, and the Catholic Brothers who run the home are heavy-handed in their religious discourses and harsh in their discipline.  Here, a group of boys manages to look


From a hill above town, the Mount Kildare Orphanage for Boys looks down on the small city of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The year is 1960. The orphanage is always cold, there is never enough to eat, and the Catholic Brothers who run the home are heavy-handed in their religious discourses and harsh in their discipline.  Here, a group of boys manages to look out for each other and live by their own set of rules.

By day the boys are obedient students, but when the sun goes down the Dare Klub rules the night: raiding the bakery; stealing sacramental wine; and talking endlessly about girls, sex, and the merits of Floyd Patterson versus Willie Mays. Above all, they help each other through the waves of loneliness and sadness that they all experience. Their secret society is their law and their family. But when the Brothers discover the wine is missing, they go on a manhunt, offering payoffs and bribes to any boy who will rat out the culprits.

To buck up the frightened boys’ courage, the Dare Klub’s leader, Blackie, creates a program of secret training for the annual St. John's marathon. The boys sneak out at night for running sessions in the hours before morning prayers, devising elaborate rituals to protect their secrecy. Leo Furey has created a classic coming-of-age story of dazzling scope and powerful insight, leavened with razor-sharp wit.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Inspirational without being mawkish. Furey’s debut is a shoo-in for book clubs."—Publishers Weekly

"A winning first novel. . . . Furey encapsulates the life-affirming resilience of youth."—Booklist starred review

"The Long Run is a ghastly-wonderful journey through a pious hell run by lunatics, an antic dance of grim humor, genuine pathos, and final redeeming joy."—The Globe & Mail

"Like Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, The Long Run finds humor and even joy in a childhood that reads at times like something out of Charles Dickens."—The Toronto Star

"Funny, sad, forgiving, and redemptive, The Long Run wonderfully and tenderly evokes a time and place and shows us boys fighting for survival and happiness in the face of relentless and often heartless opposition. The reader fights and wins with them."—Wayne Johnston, author of The Navigator of New York and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

"What got me is how laugh-out-loud funny this book is. Yet the whole is suffused with an aura of incredible sadness. It is universal in its message that adversity and systematic repression can reveal the infinite resourcefulness and indomitability of people, especially young people. Leo Furey has turned bitter experience into a work of art."—Robert MacNeil, author of Wordstruck and Burden of Desire

"This is a novel about the past—a past that is presented in such detail that it becomes the present, and, in its finality, knows no boundaries. It is a story of everlasting friendships forged in youth and pain."—Alistair MacLeod, author of No Great Mischief

"Furey’s tragicomic tale of orphanage life in St. John’s during the sixties will win your heart and break it by turns. The Long Run is a vivid account of brutality, laughter, the unwavering bravery of childhood, and a hard resilience—it cannot fail to move its readers."—Lisa Moore, author of Open and Alligator

The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
Dickens may be peerless in his depictions of London's slums and their unfortunate inhabitants, and Frank McCourt unforgettable for his poignant account of a poverty-stricken Irish childhood, but Furey's laudable debut carves out new territory in the lives of those who suffer misfortune.

In 1960, "the Mount", an orphanage for boys atop the hill town of St. John's, Newfoundland, is home to a ragtag and motley group. Foundlings, orphans, and "half-orphans" make their way here, possessing little but hopelessness; they leave, years later, without much more. The Christian Brothers display scant mercy to their unfortunate charges and run the home with an iron hand, dispensing their own version of divine justice. But a group of boys band together to form the "Dare Klub," with a code of conduct as rigid as the Church's canon. Together, they plunder the home's kitchen and steal the sacramental wine. Such childish pranks, however, are just a prelude to their grandest endeavor -- the annual St. John's marathon. Secretly training in the wee hours, devising elaborate lies to protect their activity, the boys run for happiness and survival in a climate that is harsh in more ways than one. Lonely and afraid, their childhood lost, they run to escape the sadness that has become so familiar, determined to find a measure of joy.

Antic, painful, and wickedly funny, The Long Run is a coming-of-age story seasoned with grit, pathos, and uncommon insight. (Spring 2007 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
In his debut novel, longtime Canadian English teacher Furey spins bleak material orphans abused by sadistic priests into a moving and uplifting story. Furey's tale takes place in a Newfoundland orphanage in the early 1960s. While the school is grim and the corporal punishment the students receive is brutal, the boys band together to create the families they all lack. The book is filled with vivid characters, like Oberstein, a bright Jewish kid who continually peppers priests with hypotheticals about church dogma, including whether spit could have baptismal uses. Hope is in short supply at the orphanage, and many of the boys fall victim to "the spells," dark periods of dread and depression. To create something to look forward to, a group of students decides secretly to train to run a marathon and they sneak out at night for training runs. The event creates a sense of drama and propels the story, but it also allows the boys to bond over a common cause. Inspirational without being mawkish, Furey's debut is a shoo-in for book clubs. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt


THE FIRST PERIOD in the afternoon is religion. Brother McCann takes attendance, gets up from behind his desk, shakes chalk dust from his soutane and struts to the middle of the classroom. As he walks, his right shoulder sags. His huge head tilts permanently to the right as if he's listening to his shoulder, and his left ear juts straight out so it looks like it came off and he glued it back on wrong. As usual, specks of greenish white saliva cling to the corners of his mouth. A few wisps of reddish hair dance on his bald head and look like they'd waltz away on a windy day. He's an odd duck with the worst temper of all the brothers at the Mount. When he speaks, he sprays spit. The boys in the front row shield their faces with their hands. Oberstein calls McCann's classroom "the shower."

When Brother McCann moves to the middle of the room, we know what's up. He's about to launch into one of his sessions. Monologues and Dialogues he calls them. Ten to fifteen minutes of ranting and raving. We painfully participate "for the sole purpose of the salvation of souls." His raving makes no sense. "Monologues and Dialogues is like a game of fish," he says. "You all have playing cards. I see all the Mount Kildare boys playing fish in the halls. You play fish in the halls, don't you, Spencers?"

His hazel eyes stare hungrily from beneath bushy brows. He has the odd habit of always adding an s to a boy's name: Murphys, Ryans, Kavanaghs, Obersteins. And if a boy's name ends in s, he drops it: Hyne, Roger, Jone, Brooke.

"Murphys, you play fish?"

"Yes, Brother."


"Yes, Brother."

"And you, Ryans?"

"Yes, Brother."

"And are you good at it, Murphys?"

"Yes, pretty good, Brother."

"Well, Monologues and Dialogues is like the card game fish. During the monologue, you, the class, are dealt the cards, information, and during a dialogue you are to match the cards, information, with the information, cards, given out during the monologue. Is that clear, Kavanaghs?"

"Yes, Brother."


"Yes, Brother McCann." I watch him remove the large ivory crucifix from above the blackboard.

"Quite clear, Mr. Burn?"

"Oh yes, Brother, quite clear."

"Clear, Nevilles?"

"Yes, Brother McCann."

None of us has a clue what the hell he's talking about. But you don't dare disagree with Brother McCann unless you want a knuckle sandwich. His game is very simple. There is no dialogue, just monologues where Brother McCann tries to stump you with a question and you answer as best you can, hoping to avoid the strap. Each monologue has a theme, and he announces the theme by reading from a book or a magazine. There are always props, as he calls them, to help get the point across. Today's props are the huge ivory crucifix, a copy of the Nazareth Foreign Missions Magazine and a National Geographic photograph of a monkey. He raises each prop slowly and places each item on his desk.

The classes are always crazy, and most days somebody gets a bad strapping. Usually drowsy Rowsell or bucktoothed O'Grady. They're the slowpokes in the class. Blackie thinks Brother McCann is crazy. He says that Monologues and Dialogues is all the proof you need to put Brother McCann in a rubber room at the Mental and throw away the key.

"Today's theme is Christ, the Evangelist. Are you paying attention, boys?" A thread of spittle hangs between his lips.

"Yes, Brother," we chant. The air in the classroom is very hot, and I can feel the sweat soaking the back of my shirt.

"And do you know what an evangelist is, Kellys?"

"No, Brother."

"Well then, pay very close attention and you shall find out, Mr. Kellys."

"Yes, Brother."

"Bradburys, are you paying attention?"

"Yes, Brrr."

"Pardon me, Bradburys?" McCann's eyes narrow as he speaks.

"Yes, Brother McCann."

"That's better, Bradburys. Now, I know many of you boys abbreviate the word 'Brother.' In fact, you use this abbreviated form in other classes. But not in my class, boys. There will be no lapses in my class. You will not say Brrr or Burr or Bruh or Bro in my class. Is that clear, boys?"

"Yes, Brother McCann."


"Yes, Brother McCann."

"Some of the other brothers may permit you to say Burr and Bruh and Bro. But not this brother. This brother does not permit such speech. With this brother, it will always be Brother and nothing else. Never forget that, class. Brother and nothing else. Repeat that now."

"Brother and nothing else, Brother."

He looks at us dully before reading from the Nazareth Foreign Missions Magazine, the corners of his mouth wet with saliva. After reading for a few minutes, he stops short, rolls the magazine into his fist and begins his raving.

"We are being accused of buying souls. Buying souls, boys. Trading in salvation. Us, boys. You. And me. And not just Mount Kildare Orphanage. All Romans around the world."

Romans is his word for Roman Catholics.

"We are the majority, boys. The largest single denomination on God's earth is being accused of buying the souls of the poor. How? How, boys? Why, with money and jobs. That's how. That's the accusation. That's the allegation. Money and jobs, boys. As if Romans need to stoop so low."

A fly lands on Tracey's desk. Brother McCann eyes it cautiously. "Don't move Traceys," he whispers, and whacks at it with the rolled magazine. It buzzes away. "I told you not to move, Traceys."

"I didn't, Brother."

He whacks Tracey on the side of the head with the magazine.

"Don't talk back, boy. Money and jobs," he continues. "Can you imagine? They are accusing us of buying souls?" He pauses, snickers and strolls to the other side of the room. "Of what is our Church being accused, boys?"

"Buying souls, Brother."

"Very good, class. And what do we say to this accusation? Is it true, class?"

"No, Brother," we chant.

"Well done, class. Well done." He breathes a deep sigh, raises his eyebrows and unrolls the magazine. "Pay close attention, boys, as I read the pack of lies being propagated against Holy Mother Church. Against all Romans worldwide. Listen carefully now to what I read. And remember our theme. Christ the Evangelist. Ready now. This is the monologue. Pay close attention. The dialogue will follow." He sighs deeply and reads:

Little Pundhu Ghanga, seven years old, shudders as he recalls the Hindu radicals who came to his dirt poor village and dragged him to a river to be scrubbed clean of Chr

ist. "You heard right, class. That's what the text says: 'to be scrubbed clean of Christ, scrubbed with the bark of trees and with jagged rocks.' Now listen to this, boys. Listen: ‘When the cleansing was complete, little Pundhu was forced ...' That's what it says, boys -- forced -- 'to worship a picture of Hanuman.' That's right, class. You all heard correctly. Your ears did not deceive you. Little Pundhu was forced to worship a picture of Hanuman. And do you know who Hanuman is, class?"

"No, Brother."

"Hanuman is a monkey, class. That's right, boys. A monkey. But Hanuman is no ordinary monkey, boys. Oh nooooo." Bug Bradbury puckers his lips and points toward Brookes, who has a monkey face. Bug can be as bold as brass. "No ordinary monkey, this . . . this Hanuman. And do you know why, boys? Do you know, Murphys?

"No, Brother."

"No. Of course not. How would you? Then I shall tell you, class. Make good note of it. Your souls depend on such knowledge. Hanuman is none other than the Hindu Monkey God." Brother McCann shakes his head and looks up at the ceiling. His mouth is wide open, and the boys in the front rows can see his crooked yellow teeth. "The Hindu Monkey God. And little Pundhu, baptized in the blood of our Lord and Savior is forced to worship Hanuman, to bow down to a monkey. Little Pundhu is forced to ignore this -- this..."

He swirls around and grabs the ivory crucifix from his desk, raises it high above his head. "This," he screams, spraying spit everywhere. "Jesus, his Savior. Can you imagine it? He must ignore the blood of Christ and worship this." He swirls again and grabs the National Geographic picture of the monkey, and with his free hand raises it above his head. "This? Or this?" he shouts, the veins in his neck standing out. "This is little Pundhu's choice. Can you imagine it, boys? Can you? Hanuman or Jesus?" He shakes his head, opens his mouth wide and gapes again at the ceiling, gasping for breath. "A monkey, for God's sakes. Or . . . or Jesus our Savior? A monkey? Or God? Some choice, class. Some choice, boys. But little Pundhu's choice. Little Pundhu Ghanga. That little Roman's choice. Much younger than most of you, boys. Half your age in fact. And that little Roman made the right choice. A little martyr in the making. Little Pundhu chose the Son of Man, who died on the cross for our vile sins."

Silence. Rapid breathing. He does not look at us but seems to gaze on some faraway scene. A line of blue spruce trees outside the classroom window splinters the sunlight.

"And who would you choose, boys?"

"Jesus our Savior, Brother."

"Mr. Spencers, Jesus or Hanuman?"

"Jesus, Brother."


"Jesus, Brother."

"Wait for the complete dialogue, Kellys."

"Yes, Brother."

"Hanuman or Jesus?"

"Jesus, Brother."

"Ryans, choose ye this day whom ye shall serve. Jesus or Hanuman?"

"Jesus, Brother."

He goes around the room questioning everyone, and we all answer Jesus. Except for Smokin' Joe. That's Rowsell's nickname. But most of the time we just call him Rowsell. He smokes like a Labrador tilt, every finger is yellow. He always carries a Zippo lighter. Every time someone takes out a cigarette, Rowsell's there clicking open his Zippo. He's large-eyed, with a big moon face that turns beet red whenever he has a cigarette. Rowsell's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and when his turn comes to answer, Brother McCann slightly changes the question.

"Rowsells? Jesus, human and divine, named by God. Or a monkey, named by . . . God knows who. A monkey! Who, Mr. Rowsells?"

Rowsell thinks he is being asked to name the Hindu monkey god.

"Hanuman," Rowsell says.

What happens next takes place at lightning speed. Brother McCann bolts toward Rowsell's desk.

"Jesus, I mean Jesus, not Hanuman. God, not the monkey god. Jesus."

Too late. Brother McCann's strap is out.

"Up, Mr. Rowsells. Get them up. Higher. Higher. Hanuman over Jesus, is it, Rowsells?" Specks of spit splash on desks and school clothes. "A monkey? An animal over our Savior, is it? Well, let's see if you can endure some of the pain for your monkey god that little Pundhu endured for Jesus, our Lord and Savior."

"Jesus, I meant Jesus, Brother." Rowsell is crying. "Not Hanuman. Please. Jesus. I don't know what got into me."

"Oh, I know very well what got into you, Rowsells. Very well. The devil got into you, sir. The very devil I'm about to exorcise." McCann's spit is flying everywhere. "The very devil the Little Missionary Brothers must fight each day in the battle for souls that rages in the jungles of Africa and India." The strap strikes at bullet speed, and with each blow Brother McCann shouts a letter. His voice is high and hysterical: "H-A-N-U-M-A-N." He returns to the front of the classroom. "Now, is there anyone else who would like to worship Hanuman, the monkey god?" He's spitting like crazy and breathing so hard it sounds like he's having a heart attack. "Any more worshippers of Hanuman?"

"No, Brother."

"Very good, class. Very wise."

Meet the Author

Leo Furey's poetry, stories, and reviews have appeared in several literary journals. An English teacher for twenty-five years, he is currently executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation.

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Long Run 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Haven't finished book yet. Tried to get into it 2-3 times. I am a fast reader, but this one is not holding my interest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, I didn't want it to end, but was just a little disappointed because it left a few unanswered questions. Highly recommended. Maybe a follow up novel?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of my favorite pieces of fiction I've read this year! The characters were phenomenal! I loved every one of them (baring in mind this includes those I loved to hate)! Read it! You won't regret it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will never experience a more powerful story. Read it. Laugh and cry. It's a wonderful wonderful read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful novel. Furey's writing was so real and moving, I completely understood what these boys were going through and my heart broke for them. I would have preferred that the ending be a little more wrapped up - there's still some unanswered questions for me but I would highly recommend the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of debut novels. I love to give new writers a chance and see if they can bring something new to fiction. I just found it to be boring and non eventful. Furey is a good writer but just needs more focus for a strong story-line. Ran out of steam (and enthusiasm to finish).