Monday, May 30, 2016

Everybody's Fool

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo is the sequel to his earlier novel, Nobody's Fool.  Both books take place in the fictional town of North Bath.  North Bath is a blue collar poor cousin to its neighbor Schuyler Springs.  Schuyler Springs sure seems to me to be Saratoga Springs because of various references. I am not sure what town North Bath is in real life, but Russo depicts it clearly as a classic upstate new york burg.  I've lived in many places in New York and have three great friends who live in three separate but similar small towns in upstate New York.  So, I sort of know North Bath.

But in a million years I could not describe it as well as Russo does.  Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors. His most famous book is probably Empire Falls because a made-for-tv movie was made based on it.  Nobody's Fool was also made into a film (both movies featured Paul Newman). Empire Falls does not take place in New York, rather in a small town in Maine.  I enjoyed reading it, but not as much as The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, Bridge of Sighs, and now Everybody's Fool--all of which take place in small towns near Albany.

Russo's ability to write dialogue, and funny dialogue, is just terrific.  You laugh out loud when reading how his characters go back and forth.  While the books have their serious parts, the books are fun to read if, for no other reason, that you find yourself laughing.

Everybody's Fool specifically?  Well, the first two hundred pages are like a "Where are they now" update from Nobody's Fool?  What's up with Sully and Ruth? What happened to Sully's landlady, kids, and first wife.   And, centrally, what happened with Doug Raymer, who I did not remember from the first book but, I found out, was in it.  The book does evolve into more than just an update. The following probably does not give away much, but if you want to read the book, and don't like any information about it--you might want to skip the next paragraph.

Raymer is now the police chief (we learn this in the first few pages).  He feels like everybody's fool. His wife was having an affair before she died curiously.  His second in command in the police department takes verbal shots at him regularly. Her twin brother also pokes fun.  The mayor does not seem to respect him.  Raymer loved his wife and cannot purge his feeling of inadequacy because his wife was passionate with someone else.  Meanwhile Ruth and Sully are no longer a tandem despite the fact that they are.  That is, Ruth and Sully's hearts are tethered as they always have been, but for reasons have decided to interrupt their loving and love making.  Enter a real bona fide bastard named Roy Purdy; a snake salesperson; the wife of the mayor who is suffering from dementia; a construction owner who could not build a teepee, and a dog.  The plot does thicken and the point is there for the taking.

Are we all everybody's fool if we allow ourselves to think so. That is, could we all conjure up enough negative things about ourselves to think of ourselves as foolish.  I know I have felt that way many times.  Does everyone?  How significant is love as a factor--either not having it or having it--that makes us feel foolish?

I think seeing the movie or reading the book Nobody's Fool before reading Everybody's Fool would be helpful.  But if you like to read, and like to laugh, Everybody's Fool is worth the time it will take you to finish the novel.  My opinion is that it is not as good as The Risk Pool but still it's an enjoyable ride.

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