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The Risk Pool by Richard Russo
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's review
Mar 15, 2012

it was amazing
Read in March, 2012

I always feel like kind of sucker for enjoying Richard Russo novels as much as I do--he plays the "looking back on your life, wistfully" card to the hilt--but whatever: the guy can tell a long, mostly uneventful story about vaguely interesting men with the best of them, and in Risk Pool, his second novel, from 1988, he again had me totally engaged, chuckling out loud, getting a bit teary-eyed, all of it. Risk Pool takes place in fictional Mohawk, New York, a dreary post-industrial town full of bitter drunken men and the women they abandon. But as in all of his novels, instead of sneering at these emotional/professional losers, Russo clearly, genuinely likes these people, and this town, and so imbues the story with enormous heart. Does the plot itself even matter? Not really: it's told by Ned Hall, and it's really just a look back on his entire life (maybe half the book is spent in his childhood and adolescence) from the vantage point of middle-age. Sure events occur, and Ned's father, Sam, a small-town rogue, is a terrific character, and you definitely want to know what happens to all of these people with whom you spend some 450 pages, but Risk Pool is really about feelings. And, I guess, I really like feeling things.
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