Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: "That Old Cape Magic" by Richard Russo

The one thing books by Richard Russo always have is charm. He writes easily the most charming books I have read. Even when the plot moves along thanks to stupid and preposterous happenings, like a car being driven on the sidewalk in Nobody’s Fool and a the spine of a notebook impaling a nose in Straight Man, I can never bring myself to hate what I am reading. It isn’t forced quirkiness like Juno; it just seems to make the world as well as the people who inhabit that world more endearing and sympathetic, especially when they do things that are mean and thoughtless. That Old Cape Magic, Russo’s most recent, begins with the main character Griffin, being crapped on by a passing swallow, which is typical in a Russo opening and one that is very funny. We meet Griffin in his favorite place in the world: Cape Cod. It is where he vacationed as a kid, got married, and watched his daughter’s friend get married as well. Now, after he and his wife are now separated, he must reexamine his decisions and where they have brought him. The big problem with this particular novel is that there does not seem to be much at stake, and what is at stake seems very trivial, which makes it hard for the reader to really care. But I think Russo’s intention with this short (compared to his others) novel was to make something fun, even if he sacrificed the real heart in his best works. And it is pretty funny. We get two jarhead ex-brother in-laws who want to harm Griffin, and the climatic collapse of deck where the wedding is supposed to be. It is okay to laugh because no one dies and someone gets stuck in a tree. A fun lighthearted novel that is perfect for fun, never heavy, reading.
Rating: 4/5

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