Saturday, December 24, 2016

Everybody's Fool (Sully #2) by Richard Russo


RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven previous novels; two collections of stories; and Elsewhere, a memoir. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries
Richard Russo, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters he created in Nobody’s Fool.

The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is staring down a VA cardiologist’s estimate that he has only a year or two left, and it’s hard work trying to keep this news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years . . . the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren’t still best friends . . . Sully’s son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure (and now a regretful one). We also enjoy the company of Doug Raymer, the chief of police who’s obsessing primarily over the identity of the man his wife might’ve been about to run off with, before dying in a freak accident . . . Bath’s mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, whose wife problems are, if anything, even more pressing . . . and then there’s Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upward might now come to ruin. And finally, there’s Charice Bond—a light at the end of the tunnel that is Chief Raymer’s office—as well as her brother, Jerome, who might well be the train barrelling into the station.

Everybody’s Fool is filled with humour, heart, hard times and people you can’t help but love, possibly because their various faults make them so stridently human. This is classic Russo—and a crowning achievement from one of the greatest storytellers of our time.
“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it,” she said. “We forgive them because we deserve it.”
This Christmas I needed a lot of wisdom, in fact, the deeper I am sinking into my late twenties the more reflective I have become. But it is the very demanding nature of reflection that takes its toll on me. Therefore, I really enjoyed reading Everybody's Fool. It is full of life, humour and advise that all of us need.
This sequel to Nobody's Fool returns us to the blue collar town of Bath in upstate New York. A change in his circumstances from the previous book has made Donald Sullivan relatively prosperous with no need to work the kind of back breaking jobs he’d done for most of his life, but at 70 he’s just received some very bad news about his health. Sully’s old nemesis, Douglas Raymer, is now the police chief, but no one respects him including Raymer himself. His wife died just as she was about to leave him for another man, and Raymer is obsessed with learning the identity of this guy by using the only clue he has, a remote control for a garage door opener.
Despite plenty of buffoonery and mishaps nursed for humour, Russo paints these characters with a warm heart, and most are lovable at some level. They evolve through a series of crises that appear to be a part of a larger jinx that affects the whole town. A lot of the shame in being a fool has to do with perception of the judgement of others. For the town, its downhill economy is made more painful by the contrast with neighbouring Schuyler, whose newspaper largely features stories of the misfortunes that befall Bath. (After a wall collapses in a rehab project, Gus asks: “How come shit like this never happens in Schuyler?”, and a policeman from there answers: “There’s an ordinance against it”). The overall dynamic of the tale has to do with how to live with the limitations, foibles, and secret passions at the individual and community level and not succumb to madness and total despair from their consequences.
Time will tell if this will become a classic. It sits pretty well for me as a less moralistic, blue collar alternative to Bellow’s “The Adventures of Augie March” and Updike’s “Rabbit Run.” It is a sequel to “Nobody’s Fool”, but I, like most people, have only dim memories of reading that novel 20-plus years ago (i.e. I feel it unnecessary to read that one first).
It already won my heart!5FOXGIVEN