27 June 2016

Books: Everybody's Fool By Richard Russo (2016)

“The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is staring down a VA cardiologist’s estimate that he has only a year or two left, and it’s hard work trying to keep this news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years and the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren’t still best friends. The there is Sully’s son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure (and now a regretful one). We also enjoy the company of Doug Raymer, the chief of police who’s obsessing primarily over the identity of the man his wife might’ve been about to run off with, before dying in a freak accident. Bath’s mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, whose wife problems are, if anything, even more pressing; and then there’s Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upward might now come to ruin. And finally, there’s Charice Bond—a light at the end of the tunnel that is Chief Raymer’s office—as well as her brother, Jerome, who might well be the train barreling into the station.”

Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool is set a little over ten years after the events of Nobody’s Fool (though twenty-three years have passed since the book was released), and like all sequels (and the first one Russo has done), you might begin to wonder if it’s as good as the original. Being this is only the third Russo novel I’ve read, and having recently finished the first book featuring the characters of Bath, New York, I found I enjoyed the book just the same. Russo’s wry look at human nature and their inevitable foibles it causes makes for a fun read. The writers ear for working class folks is strong and, much like Charles Dickens or John Irving or even Stephen King, you get a sense that these are real people, that they talk, eat, sleep, and move from one good fortune to tragedy much like everyone else does.  

There is a sense of forbidding death that clings to the book, also, from a lot of characters who’ve shuttled off this mortal coil to the town of Bath, which continues its slow collapse into death, to people like Sully who is facing mortality but unsure if he wants to leave or stay. 

The one striking aspect of Everybody’s Fool is that Sully is really not the main character of this story –he takes on somewhat of a supporting role here. And for some this might throw out the question of why Russo decided to return to them and not create different characters with the same story. But I know writers, and I can guess that this is where his muse took him.

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