Elsewhere
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Elsewhere

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  3,625 ratings  ·  644 reviews
After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.

Anyone familiar with Richard Russo'sacclaimed novelswill recognize Gloversville once famous for producing that eponymous product and anythi...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Knopf
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Jeanette (Most of My Favorite Authors Are Dead)
This book is more "mom"-oir than memoir. You won't learn much about Rick Russo except as it relates to his mother's inescapable grip on him. Jean Russo was one doozy of a dippy demanding dame. She taught Rick to think of himself and his mother as essentially one person -- "You and me against the world." Even as an adult, he couldn't break free of her hold on him. For over 35 years he catered to her ridiculous demands, which cost him a fortune financially and mentally.

Ever since Rick was a boy,...more
Margaret Sankey
As with Isabelle Allende's memoirs, I was interested to see how much of real life Richard Russo used for his novels like Empire Falls and Nobody's Fool, especially since the most outrageous things generally turn out to be the true ones. In this case, Russo is heart-breakingly open about his early life in a dying upstate New York mill town, his ne'er do well gambler father, his devoted mother who is...too devoted and eventually diagnosed with OCD and crippling anxiety, his incredibly tolerant wif...more
Rachel
I was disappointed with Richard Russo’s memoir Elsewhere but I had difficulty articulating precisely why until I read Jane McDonnell’s Living to Tell the Tale. I’ll quote the introductory paragraph to her book in its entirety because it is inspirational:

Writing is a second chance at life. Although we can never go back in time to change the past, we can re-experience, interpret and make peace with our past lives. When we write a personal narrative we find new meanings and, at the same time, we di...more
Michelle
I’ve been a fan of Richard Russo since the late 80s/early 90s, back when I was a teen and read The Risk Pool. I love his hardscrapple blue color characters and in reading this memoir it’s clear where much of his literary inspiration comes from.

This is mostly about his mother. She’s strong yet incredibly, frustratingly, annoyingly flawed. She had (undiagnosed) OCD but this is not really evident until the very end of the book after she’s already dead (no spoiler here, Russo’s an old guy himself) a...more
Erika
Do not waste your time reading this book.

I read it like the dutiful son Russo, the author, is: because it is his mother who constantly asks him to take her places ("my son will do that", she always insists at the sight of assisted-living and nursing home shuttle buses), he does it. Because the author is someone who is nice, I thought, I should finish reading this book.

But I didn't want to. It bugged me. Why would I want to read about a nagging old woman who insists on following her son across t...more
Abby
Russo is just sooooo good. This memoir really gives insight into his work. I love you Richard Russo. There, I said it.
Grandma Weaver
Richard Russo is one of my avorite authors. I've read all of his books and loved all of them. This book is no exception. He calls it a memoir but it's mostly a book about his mother, who was to put it mildly, a handful. She was never happy with any situation she was in. It's also about Gloversville NY where he grew up. It was a factory town tanning leather and making gloves and other leather products. And not the garden spot of New York state. It was a hard and dangerous work with more of the to...more
Judy
I think that whenever I become concerned about my parenting skills, I should remember this book. Richard Russo writes movingly, and often hilariously, about Gloversville, New York, the small upstate town where he was raised, his parents, and the incredible bond that existed between Russo and his mother. Noting that "a mother gives us breath, but she can also suck away the oxygen", Russo traces the path that his life followed since leaving Gloversville when he was 18 years old. And his mother was...more
Linda
So here's a memoir focused on a man's relationship with his mentally ill mother. You'd think it would be sad, depressing, frustrating. Not so. It's all about survival and resilience. True, some things don't get better: the author's hometown of Gloversville, NY, went downhill after the glove factories closed, much like my neighboring hometown of Amsterdam, NY, when the carpet mills moved out. Russo writes about the pollution and the disregard for workers' health, and the common identity and pride...more
Kevin
Ugh. What do you say about a book where on page 165 the narrator finally comes to the same conclusion that the reader has on page 20: "The biggest difference between my mother and me, I now saw clearly, had less to do with nature or nuture than with blind dumb luck" ?

I'm clearly missing whatever gene allows people to accept chatter about real estate as interesting and unfortunately it is the organizing principle here. But even so, Russo seems insensible to the advantages that "blind dumb luck"...more
Scott
And so my major crush on Richard Russo continues. I'm not exactly sure why I like this guy's books so much. He's not a flashy writer, nor particularly chewy, and his novels, usually set in depressed rust-belt towns in upstate New York, don't exactly come at you with big new ideas about the human condition. And yet I've loved them all, for their heart, their generosity of spirit, and his talent for bringing people to life, whether in a few sentences or over the course of hundreds of pages. He als...more
Larraine
I almost didn't read this book. In fact, I got it out of the library and had to return it unread because I ran out of time. However, I got it out again and read it in a short time, and I'm glad I did. Russo has always been one of my favorite writers. His prose is wonderful. I love his subject matter - especially his books that are based on his hometown in upstate New York. This one is incredibly heart-wrenching. Russo comes from a small town called Gloverville, a place that was once well known f...more
Alice
When we love our authors, we want every book they write to be a winner (see my review of Mark Helprin's latest as a case in point...). I was very interested in reading Richard Russo's latest -- a memoir -- because I thought Empire Falls, Nobody's Fool and Straight Man (three of his) were terrific. Perhaps I'm not a memoir fan, but I was disappointed in this one. I did not think it was up to his fiction standard of quality. First, as I've written in other reviews, this book needed an editor with...more
Liz
I'm always positive that I will not really enjoy a memoir and more often than not, I love them! It helps if the memoir is written by an author I love or luckily a great memoir written by a friend (Everyone should read "A Mountain of Crumbs" by Elena Gorokhova!). In "Elsewhere," Richard Russo writes mostly about his mother and her quest for a better life for herself and for her only son. She is a single parent and wants so much more out of life than the small upstate New York town offers most peo...more
Michelle
My only regret about reading this book is that I didn't dive in sooner. I had read only one other Russo book and found it depressing. I imagined a memoir focused on his mother's death would be über depressing. But I couldn't escape review after review praising it. So I gave in and got it on tape. Read by Russo, this book is anything but depressing. It's sad sometimes, sure, and occasionally it's frustrating, but mostly, it's engaging. Russo pities his mother and the residents of his down-and-out...more
John Woltjer
This was a good read. I have read "Straight Man" which was one of the few books I've ever read that made me laugh out loud. This memoir is a touching book about his very complicated relationship with his mother, who was rarely far from him geographically and never far away emotionally. There are huge gaps of time in this narrative, though there is a numbingly predictable dynamic to their relationship that would have made making the book more detailed, well, very numbing. The powerful revelation...more
Daniel Jr.
A strange story about Russo's all-consuming relationship with his mother, whose OCD spiral demanded that she live with or near him for the duration of her life--beginning with his move from upstate NY to Arizona for college.

As a native of the Mohawk Valley, I wanted to hear a lot more about his growing up, something in the way of a traditional memoir, but that's not this book, not exactly. (Though we get a somewhat satisfying meditation on Thomas Wolfe's famous line about going home again towar...more
Ruth Harper
We all knew that Empire Falls was a real place, and in this book we encounter the actual Gloversville. The theme of this story is less about place, however, than person -- that person being Russo's enigmatic, eccentric mother. In "Elsewhere" we witness yet another example of a child not knowing more than his own reality and deeming it normal, when in fact it is more than a bubble off typical. Russo's acceptance of and devotion to his mother is phenomenal; even more amazing is his wife's willingn...more
Ellin
I liked this book and read it in one sitting. I’ve enjoyed the author’s earlier fiction; That Old Cape Magic comes to mind. I decided to read his memoir before realizing it was primarily the story of his relationship with his needy mom. Needy as in NEEDY as in she moved with him when he went off to college.

The book was alternately amusing, frustrating, thought-provoking and sad. For anyone who has to deal with a needy parent, this may hit too close to home; on the other hand, they may take some...more
Beverley Rochford
I'm not sure why I chose to read this book -a memoir (outside my usual genre) but I was drawn into the concept of "elsewhere" and "mother attachments".
You have to stick to the end of the narrative if you want some satisfaction from the memoir - most of the book is a repetitive recount of each of his mother's "moves" around the country following her son and the son "saintly" at her beck and call all through the chronicle of their life. We learn very little about his mother or the author as indivi...more
Janet
I had never read Richard Russo but I had thought about it several times, especially after seeing him last year at the Tucson Festival of Books. A friend of mine, who is a New Yorker, is a fan, mostly I thought because Russo too is a native New Yorker and writes about New York. I confess to having something of a love relationship with that great place myself even though I wasn't born and raised there. I picked up the audio of this book at the library thinking that it was a memoir of his life. It...more
Lorraine
I picked up this audiobook because Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors. I quickly found that the book was not a typical memoir. Elsewhere was an eloquent, heartfelt and, ultimately, very sad ode to his mother. Russo is an only child who was raised by a single mother who had undiagnosed anxiety and OCD. She lived into her 70s and she trailed Russo as he moved around the country as a young adult and, finally, to where he and his family settled in Maine. He was her lifeline, helping her nav...more
Carol
I really liked this book -- many reviewers did not like it because it dealt too much with his mother and felt he (Russo) catered too much to her throughout her life. The book was a memoir and his mother was a constant in his life since she was a single mom and had what would today be diagnosed as OCD, among other emotional disabilities.

I felt he (and his wife) were saints in his mother's life. They protected her and cared for her and never abandoned her. I somehow got the impression from readin...more
Jennifer D
this was such an interesting read. russo did a good job sharing his life, and his mother's life, with readers in a way that was insightful and sensitive…but not full of blame and anger. (and there really could have been.) it was quite co-dependent relationship russo and his mother had, she: a single mother, he: an only child. it's complicated, messy, sad, tense, but throughout russo seems to have a great strength in seeing the big picture, and assessing his place and role within. kudos, i think,...more
Karen
I rated this book 3 stars as an average of the writing (4 stars) and the content (2 stars).

I read and agree with many many of the comments on this page. The work reflects Russo's wonderful writing style which I've enjoyed in so many of his books. But 35 years of a difficult mother weighed me down. Maybe it was cathartic for the writer, but it's hard on the reader. The book did succeed with making me very grateful that mental illness doesn't run in my family, and that I have siblings to help shar...more
Beth
Not to be flippant, but the majority of this book was about the logistics of making sure that Russo's extremely needy mother could live within half an hour of him his entire life so that he could do everything for her (spoiler alert: there were lots of details about grocery shopping, doctor's appointments, and looking for apartments). Recommended for adult males whose mothers will not let them live their own lives. I didn't feel like the late-in-the-game diagnosis let his mom off the hook for th...more
Kallie
Russo's memoir about his mother offers a compelling narrative about what it is like to live with a person who appears to be normal enough, but whose mental and behavioral habits imprison her and damage her mental and physical health. There is a bit of this woman in all of us, so the book is a bit scary, a wake-up call. Russo also discusses the social issues that contribute to emotional dis-ease in an insightful way. He doesn't discuss the contributing factor of being a single mother in a society...more
Josh
A searingly honest and straightforward memoir about Russo's mother and hometown. I generally love everything Russo writes, and this was no exception. It made me want shove it in the face of that liar Will Schwalbe (author of The End of Your Life Book Club) and say "THIS is how you write a real memoir about your mother." But I won't.
Claire
Painful to read, and repetative. Not his entertaining self.
Chad
Let me start by admitting that I will read anything Russo has written. He is unpretentious, loves to just tell a story and you always feel like his narrators are just sitting down with you sharing a pint. This book is, as some have so aptly called it, a "mom-ior" rather than a true memior. It is the story of Russo and his mother and their close, if almost insular and unhealthy relationship. She is shown in all her warts and beauty marks. I guess I identified with the way he looks back after his...more
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Richard Russo (born July 15, 1949) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. Born in Johnstown, New York, and raised in nearby Gloversville, he earned a B.A. (1967), a M.F.A. (1980), and a Ph.D. (1979) from the University of Arizona.

More about Richard Russo...
Empire Falls Straight Man Bridge of Sighs Nobody's Fool That Old Cape Magic

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“Novel writing is mostly triage (this now, that later) and obstinacy. Trying something, and when that doesn't work, trying something else. Welcoming clutter Surrendering a good idea for a better one. Knowing you won't find the finish line for a year or two, or five...” 2 likes
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