Read June 2016
Read June 2020
By Richard Russo
A look at the published/read information shows that this reader reads Russo’s new novels fairly shortly after their publication. This has been true since this reader read Empire Falls in 2001 and promptly read his two preceding books. This reader also read his memoir Elsewhere: A Memoir which nicely confirms that Russo writes what he knows: life growing up in central upstate New York after industry had left or was leaving and the trials and tribulations of being a teacher at a small college.
Everybody’s Fool is a sequel to Nobody’s Fool . Nobody’s Fool was made into a movie starting Paul Newman (who also showed up in a mini-series version of Empire Falls along with his wife Joanne Woodward). Donald “Sully” Sullivan (Paul Newman’s character) returns in Everybody’s Fool along with other characters from the first book, all older and not necessarily any wiser. There is a little bit of mystery and a lot of looking at this collection of flawed but sometimes loveable characters as they make their way through a Memorial Day weekend in their small townChances Are… is somewhat of a change of pace for Russo. It’s neither set in a somewhat decaying town in central upstate New York nor at a small college nor does it involve teachers. But it does involve men who are Russo’s approximate age so Russo once again writes what he knows. Here three 66-year old men, who worked together in a kitchen at a small liberal arts college they attended, have gathered for a weekend at the same summer place where they were last together when celebrating college graduation. There is a mystery again which is more predominant than usual for Russo novels (did his agent or editor indicate this was needed for sales?) this time about a female classmate who was also at that post-graduation gathering and who went missing thereafter. All the guys had dreamed about Jacey as their girlfriend but she was always just a friend and it was clear that’s all there would be as she was engaged to be married to someone none of them liked—someone in Jacey’s social stratum which was above theirs. The chapters alternate between Teddy and Lincoln, two of the guys, and give both their pre-and post-college stories and their present experiences during this weird weekend. The third character, Mickey, finally has a voice near the end of the book. Mickey had drawn a small draft lottery number and went to Canada to avoid the draft, despite being conflicted about the decision. Teddy and Lincoln had drawn higher numbers and avoided the Vietnam experience. During the course of the weekend, the guys actually spend fairly limited time together and talk to each other even less (remember they are 66 year old men of an era and background that condoned not sharing with other