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.