Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Return to a Small Town Richard Russo Revisits the Quiet, Intertwined Lives He Created In'nobody's Fool'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Return to a Small Town Richard Russo Revisits the Quiet, Intertwined Lives He Created In'nobody's Fool'

Article excerpt

"EVERYBODY'S FOOL"

By Richard Russo

Knopf, $27.95

Everybody should read "Everybody's Fool."

Almost nobody in Richard Russo's novel is sure of anything, but I'm sure of that. This sequel to "Nobody's Fool," the 1993 novel that introduced us to the working class anti-hero Donald "Sully" Sullivan, brings us back to down-at-its-heels North Bath, N.Y.

The fictional town is somewhere in the foothills of the Adirondacks, but mill town Western Pennsylvanians will have no trouble recognizing its post-industrial malaise, where there's a whole lot of not-there-anymore and not enough happening now.

The book takes us through a Memorial Day weekend in 1990s. It's a decade after the events of "Nobody's Fool," and a time when cell phones were rare and pay phones were not (a fact that keys a climactic moment).

The joy of reading Mr. Russo is his casual wisdom in seeing the importance of people who don't see it much in themselves. Much as Pittsburgh's own August Wilson had a gift for sharing the poetry of the spoken word that surrounded him in the Hill District, Mr. Russo's ear is tuned to the humor of everyday dialogue in the largely white diners and bars of America.

"According to this," Carl said, stabbing the magazine with his forefinger, "I'm a sex addict. It's a medical condition."

"What you are," Sully assured him, "is an anatomical description."

Mr. Russo recognizes that genuine communities are places where people are judged not by the size of their wallet or the jobs that fill it, but by the way they fill the holes in a conversation and the ones in their neighbors' lives.

This is a Bath overflowing. Surrounding Sully are his handyman best friend Rub who lives for the moments they share together, Sully's dog likewise named Rub, Sully's ex-lover and tough friend Ruth who runs the local diner, her sociopathic ex-son-in-law Roy, shady developer Carl whose business and body are both cratering, an overwhelmed, widowed and cuckolded police chief named Raymer, and his only truly capable officer Charice Bond, a black woman who followed her twin brother north and whom the chief is too clueless to confess he adores, even to himself. …

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