The role of stories and storytelling in Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family is primarily that of a coping strategy to deal with unpleasant memories.
To a considerable extent, Ondaatje romanticizes the memory of his father Mervyn, a chronic alcoholic who took his own life. In doing so, Ondaatje brings himself closer to the man who estranged himself from his family due to his excessive drinking while he was alive.
That's not to say that Ondaatje doesn't recognize the immense pain and suffering his father brought to his family. Because he was so young when his father died, he was oblivious to what was going on. His memories of his father are incomplete and largely consist of second-hand reports. As a consequence, Ondaatje has no choice but to fill in the gaps by using his considerable talents as a storyteller.