Book Review: Nobody's Fool, by Richard Russo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date Published: May 1993
# Of Pages 549 pages
Synopsis: Richard Russo's slyly funny and moving novel follows the unexpected operation of grace in a deadbeat town in upstate New York—and in the life of one of its unluckiest citizens, Sully, who has been doing the wrong thing triumphantly for fifty years.
Divorced from his own wife and carrying on halfheartedly with another man's, saddled with a bum knee and friends who make enemies redundant, Sully now has one new problem to cope with: a long-estranged son who is in imminent danger of following in his father's footsteps. With its sly and uproarious humor and a heart that embraces humanity's follies as well as its triumphs, Nobody's Fool is storytelling at its most generous.
.....For being an entertaining, rambling read.
This is the second novel by Richard Russo that I've ever read, the first being his memoir. His memoir had the feeling of being loving and nostalgic (it was about his mother after all). This book has the feeling of being an interesting smart-ass.
The tone and writing style brilliantly has the exact same feel as the town it's set in: rambling, run-down, but with enough life in it to make you stop and check things out. You find yourself a visitor for a few weeks to a tiny, dying town, and you subsequently become enveloped by the drama of it's residents.
Sully is quite the character. He never lets up and puts himself in comically ridiculous situations for the sole reason that he can, so what the hell. He drives everyone a little nuts, but he still remains likeable. You want things to work out for, yet at the same time you're resigned to the fact that he's going to mess it up, because he always messes up.
The other characters are also pretty memorable, although there were quite a few I didn't like. They all have striking personalities, components of which we can all recognize within ourselves. I think my favorite side character is Will, Sully's grandson. He's so sweet, and I love seeing him slowly triumph over his fears.
The pace/plot of this story is both frustrating, and yet interesting and appropriate for this novel as a whole. Like I said before, you feel like you're coming in to this strange town for a little visit. You stick around for a little while because the people living there are kind of ridiculous and you want to see what they do next. Then comes a dry spell, where nothing of not happens for a little while; days blend in with each other, and you start to get a little bored. But then, just as you start to decide that things are boring and you want to leave, something outrageous happens, and you get sucked back in to this small-town drama.
Overall, this book is both brilliant and odd. The tone and pace of the novel are perfectly suited to the blue-collar setting of this tale, but Sully is still an odd, albeit funny, duck. I really enjoyed this book, despite not liking some of the people in it, and despite my frustration when reading some of Sully's bizarre antics. You're going to want to slap some sense into some of these characters sometimes, yet the fact that you want to is proof that you're getting into the story, thereby making this book an intriguing piece of literature.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction, particularly of the small-town-soap-opera variety. It's not a book with a cookie-cutter plot; instead, it's a story with a life and spirit all of its own. Check it out!