MOHAWK by Richard Russo

MOHAWK

KIRKUS REVIEW

Soapy first novel about life, love, passion, and perversion in a decaying mill-town in upstate New York (Mohawk by name). Two cousins, Diana Wood and Anne Younger, are each burdened by the repressiveness of life with their aging, neurotic, and manipulative mothers, and they're also unhappy in love. On double dates way back in high school, things should have miraculously sorted themselves out, but didn't: the beautiful Anne really loves Dan (and vice versa), but Dan marries the good, plain cousin Diana instead (whom he only sort of loves); and the terribly intelligent but doomed-to-disappointment Anne errs by marrying Dallas, an irresponsible and at best half-charming town rake, drinker, and auto mechanic. With these marriages in place, life goes on: Anne and Dallas (after having a son) get divorced; Dan becomes a wheelchair victim and muddles on with Diana (along with her hypochondriacal, money-draining mother); only much later, at book's end, does Diana herself sadly but conveniently die, with the result that Anne and Dan can at last move beyond furtive consummations in front of the late-night fireplace and move away together to Phoenix, Arizona. Before such bittersweet bliss, though, much else happens, and deep, dark secrets emerge, most having to do with a Snopes-like family by name of Grouse. The town's speechless retard, nicknamed Wild Bill (who once upon a time loved Anne from afar and stood mooning under her window), turns out to have been fist-clobbered into retardation by his sleazy father, Rory Grouse, co-worker in the leather mills with Anne's father. There's character-blackmail afoot, it turns out, having to do with the years-long theft of company leather skins by Grouse, and with Anne's father's principled refusal to take part. Anne's draft-dodging and hippy son, in the later Vietnam years, will half-inadvertently reveal the whole mystery--along with a welter of bullets, two dead Grouse brothers (one the emotionally crippled town cop), the dead (and still speechless) Wild Bill, and the frosting-on-the-cake info that Rory Grouse has helped himself to his own granddaughter's sexual favors for quite a while. Workmanlike writing for lovers of the well-atmosphered small-town saga with not a cliche unturned. For those idle hours between daytime soaps.
Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1986
ISBN: 0679753826
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Vintage/Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1986




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