Elizabeth Quinn's Reviews > Nobody's Fool

Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
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's review
Oct 14, 2010

really liked it
Read in October, 2010

Here we go again -- another mash note about Richard Russo! I saw the movie version of Nobody's Fool years ago. In fact, I believe it's probably the first Russo story I'd ever "heard." Paul Newman did a great job as Sully, the main character, and I highly recommend the film. Because I'd seen the film, I put off reading the book, even though I'm a huge Russo fan. But once I'd finished everything else he'd written (except for a short story collection because I generally don't read short stories), I had no choice if I wanted to keep reading Russo.

Nobody's Fool is one of Russo's town books and set, as so many of them are, in upstate New York, where I grew up. The town here is North Bath, which is a stand-in for Ballston Spa, a small town south of Saratoga Springs, where I spent four years in college. The boosters in this down-on-its-luck town hope to revive its resort past by reopening the grand hotel and building an amusement park which the novel's down-on-his-luck protagonist, Sully, figures will come to naught. Through Sully, readers meet a huge cast of vivid characters, from his loser sidekick Rub and wry 80-something landlady Miss Beryl to his wheeler-dealer boss Carl and alcoholic lawyer Wirf. The action kicks off when Sully's semi-estranged son arrives with his wife and kids to spend Thanksgiving with Sully's toxic ex-wife and decides to stay since he's been denied tenure at a third-rate university and consequently lost his job. The tale hangs on the rapprochement of father and son -- and grandfather and grandson -- with myriad interesting threads weaving through and around the other characters that all tie up at the end. As is usual in his town books, Russo shows his big heart by creating characters who certainly flawed but lovably human and allowing them to act out their lives realistically in a world that is recognizably our own.
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