Saturday, August 13, 2016

Review: "Everybody's Fool" by Richard Russo

I don’t know what Richard Russo just did with Everybody’s Fool, but I’ve got to say that I really like it. A direct sequel to Nobody’s Fool, what I feel is Russo’s best book; this one just might be his most entertaining work. It has all the hallmarks I have come to love from his previous novel: a cozy yet realistic setting, humor mixed with heaping amounts of pathos and an overall down home dignity he injects into every character or situation. What makes this book so great, and what really took me by surprise, is that it takes these aforementioned qualities and puts them in the framework of a quasi-thriller. There are no supernatural elements, and the level of menace is surely not as high as in the work of Stephen King (who I thought of quote a bit during this book’s most harrowing scenes), but there is a great amount of suspense in this story that took me off guard. It may be a bit too much for some readers who come to Russo for his warmth instead of his narrative skill, but I felt it added quite a bit to the story’s human element: it made it seem like there was something at stake here, it added a great deal of urgent mystery mixed in with the usual Russo setting and quirks. It is clear from the book’s title as it relates to the original that this is a book in opposition to Nobody’s Fool, or it is rather the other side of the coin. It not only deals extensively with Sully, the tough, no nonsense protagonist of the first book, but really, it is more about Officer Doug Raymer, now Chief Raymer, who Sully punched in the first book after he fired his gun at him for driving on the sidewalk. Time has past since then, but it does not take place in the present day, giving the book a ghost of time’s past vibe. Sully, sporting a bum ticker, has been given only a few years to live, and after a windfall, he is determined to make the least of it. Raymer, reeling from the death of his wife, is questioning his skills as Chief, since he is aware of his reputation as the town’s resident fuck up. The book takes place over a few days, and has a few characters who are holdovers from the previous book, such as Carl Roebuck, whose punishment for his cheating ways is a urinary tract infection that has left him temporally impotent, Rub, Sully’s best friend, whose sad sack ways have not changed, and Ruth, the woman Sully had an affair with, his shaken by the arrival of her ex son-in-law Roy Purdy, who hides his psychopathic tendencies behind a veneer changed ways. Purdy’s story is where the book’s more frightening passages come from, with scenes of violence that make the spiral notebook nose mutilation in Straight Man rather tame. But this story does it’s best to be lighthearted and empathetic, and it succeeds rather warmly, even though I have qualms with the ending, and the questions it leaves and unspoken covert betrayal it finds itself a part of. Like all Russo book, this felt like a journey by the end, but not a journey on foot, but a journey through the truths and untruths of the human heart.

Rating: 5/5

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