NOBODY'S FOOL by Richard Russo


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Set in upstate New York like its predecessors (Mohawk, 1986; The Risk Pool, 1988), Russo's third is a slice of small-town life: thick slice, big cast, much bustle, but no storyline, no climax, no epiphanies. It is Donald Sullivan, known as Sully, who is "nobody's fool" (both meanings apply). The 60-year-old handyman, who has lived all his life in the Adirondacks town of New Bath, has relied on his ability to roll with the punches to see him through a harsh childhood (dominated by his brutal father, Big Jim), a brief marriage to the demanding Vera, and other adversities, some the result of his own "stupid streaks." During the midwinter weeks in 1984 that are the novel's span, the fun-loving but self-destructive Sully's latest stupid streak will end his long relationship with his mistress Ruth, a married woman, and jeopardize his tenancy (Sully lives in the home of his retired eighth-grade teacher, Miss Beryl, a spry, good-hearted octogenarian); he will also deck a cop and spend time in jail. More positively, he will become partially reconciled with his son Peter, whose own marriage has just fallen apart. As we follow Sully from his various workplaces to his hangouts (Hattie's diner, the bar, the OTB) and listen to the endless joshing between him and his sidekick Rub, a loyal half-wit, his equally loyal lawyer Wirf, and his tomcatting boss Carl Roebuck, we realize that Russo's novel is about the compensations of male camaraderie for the unsuccessful husband, father, and lover. Russo does small-town life as well as anyone, but his latest is too much of a good thing. He leaves the impression of a writer who has reached a plateau but is unwilling or unable to move on.
Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0099574918
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993


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