Jump to ratings and reviews

Win a free print copy of this book!

5 days and 08:14:31

25 copies available
U.S. only
Rate this book

North Bath #2

Everybody's Fool

Win a free print copy of this book!

5 days and 08:14:31

25 copies available
U.S. only
Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2016)
Richard Russo, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters from Nobody's Fool (1993).

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 barreling into the station.

Everybody's Fool is filled with humor, heart, hard times and people you can't help but love, possibly because their various faults make them so stridently human.

477 pages, Hardcover

First published May 3, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Richard Russo

61 books4,039 followers
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.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
5,129 (35%)
4 stars
6,415 (44%)
3 stars
2,319 (15%)
2 stars
450 (3%)
1 star
193 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,973 reviews
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,086 reviews7,013 followers
March 3, 2018
This story is a lot like the author’s Empire Falls. This one is set in a declining town in upstate New York instead of Maine, but we have a lot of down-and-out folks and a lot of the action occurs in a diner or in bars.

The story is kind of catalog of how hard-scrabble folks look at their lives and deal with the bad cards they keep getting. From the blurbs for his other books “…friends who make enemies redundant.” And “those small towns that lie almost entirely on the wrong side of the tracks.”


Some of the themes and philosophizing: The benefits of nasty physical labor. How people manage to relate to kids they were bad parents to. Like my sister is fond of saying: “Everyone has terrible problems.” These are folks living lives of quiet desperation, if not despondency:

“It was as if mundane and mechanistic things were suddenly revealed to have been specifically designed with an eye toward maximum cruelty and guaranteed suffering.”

“It had taken her years and years to understand that most other people didn’t feel good either, that the world’s work was to make you feel like it was disappointed in you, that you’d never measure up, not really.”

“…it was a shame, indeed a crying shame, though probably not a crime, to be unequal to the most important tasks you’re given.”

These are folks who got married because “she was pregnant.” They moved in with parents and now live in a trailer or a dilapidated house and drive a beater. The man comes home from a day of labor, takes off his pants, yells at the kids, and drinks beer while he watches cartoons on TV.

A brick wall of an old mill under renovation falls on one man’s car, seriously injuring him. This could be a GOOD THING. God didn’t kill me and maybe I’ll get some money out of it.

We have two main characters: an average Joe who is the town’s police chief. His assistant is an African American and her twin brother is a policeman. They’re probably the only black folks in town. A year or so ago the chief’s wife died in an accident. She had found a lover and intended to leave him for another man. He finds someone’s garage opener in her possessions so that becomes a mystery as he drives around town seeing whose garage door it might open. The other main character is Sully, an old timer who fought in WW II and struggles with heart problems. He’s the best (and only) friend of a developmentally disabled man who’s quite a character in his own right.


Russo has great humor in all his novels. Although, as in his academic novel, Nobody’s Fool, it sometimes disintegrates into farce and slapstick, but here are a few lines I liked:

On the overflowing town cemetery: “Death was not a thing unknown to the town’s first hearty residents, but they seemed to have badly misjudged how much of it there’d be…”

On a speech by the mayor who had previously been in the university: “An academic affiliation might explain both his windy nonsense and the confidence with which he delivered it.”

As a boy he was told the mystery of the Holy Trinity were beyond comprehension which comforted him “…since it was certainly beyond his.”

Of an old woman who was widowed: her husband, the high school driver’s ed teacher had “…been killed in the line of duty a decade earlier.”

“Amazing, when you thought about it, how much of human destiny was mapped out by the third grade.”

To spice up the plot we have an escaped cobra loose in a low-income housing complex; a man just released from prison after serving a sentence for spousal abuse who may be back to kill her or his mother-in-law; a local scoundrel/shyster who has a real-estate scam going (again). There’s the black-white friction between the chief and his assistant as they try to work with and understand each other. And the rivalry with a neighboring college town that gets all the bennies while everything bad flows downhill toward them.

It’s a good story and a fun read.

Top photo: Small Upstate New York Town on flickr.com
Bottom: Diner near Boston by Bob Jagendorf on shuttterstock.com
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews875 followers
October 27, 2016
I doubt I’m the only one who’s ever driven through small town America and wondered, “What do these people do?” I’m not proud of my snobbery, but cop to it because I also know how to counter it. The antidote, as I’m sure you’ve all figured, is Richard Russo. His latest, a return to North Bath in upstate New York, offers a ready answer: they have lives. We who are high on our horses may look down and not see it, but these people have conflicts, interactions, feelings, flaws, and wisdom – pretty much the same as everyone else. Their economic engines may sputter at times, but they get by.

Everybody’s Fool follows Nobody’s Fool, one I rate near the top of all time. The earlier book was all about Sully, a man of apparent contradictions. He’s a bit rough around the edges, but with an obvious charm; he makes poor decisions, but is quick-witted and bright; and he’s an authority-flouting scofflaw with a strong moral sense. Paul Newman played him to perfection in the movie version, which I also recommend unreservedly.

I went into this book fearing sequelitis. What if it was like the movie version of Gilligan’s Island, where a perfectly brilliant sit com morphed into cheesy, chaotic nonsense? (OK, so maybe that’s not the best example given how little morphing was required to achieve such a state.) More to the point, what if it became an exercise in redundancy – character stasis, setting stagnation, and ennui as the action unfolds? But no, ten years hence it was like visiting old friends you haven’t seen in a while. They’re still recognizable, but with interesting differences. The book introduced new characters, too. I only occasionally got the sense that Russo was cashing in on his earlier successes.

Sully himself was largely unchanged, despite altered circumstances. He’d come into some money, thanks in part to his religiously played trifecta finally coming in. But then he got counterpunched with worrisome news from his doctor. As Sully’s friends could tell you, though, he’s the type to take everything in his stride. Sully’s sad sack friend Rub, is still as simple as ever, with his happiness driven entirely by time spent with Sully – well, that and cheeseburgers and beer. An old flame, Ruth, had become more just a friend, as wise to the ways of the world as Sully. Ruth’s husband played an expanded role just as his junk emporium expanded beyond the walls of their home. Their daughter had been married to a misogynist who was bad even by the standards of certain politicians. In fact, one of the major plot points involved this guy’s hateful nature. Sully and Ruth were especially skeptical about his having found God under a newly turned leaf.

A fairly minor character in Nobody’s Fool was way more fleshed out in this one. It was the hapless police officer, Douglas Raymer, who we grow to appreciate far more when we see how he came by his self-loathing. He was dealing with a lot: an idée fixe involving an affair he suspected his wife was having right before she died, his competence as chief of police, and confusing (flirtatious?) interactions with the smart, sassy woman at department headquarters named Charice. In the movie Nobody’s Fool, Raymer was played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was a bit part, but had this book been included as well, it would have been a role more worthy of the late, great actor.

I suppose as character-driven as Russo novels typically are, it doesn’t hurt to list even more of the cast. There was a reprise for Carl Roebuck, the would-be player whose construction company “had about one swirl around the drain left, after which he'd be officially wiped out.“ Carl had some of the funnier lines if you’re at all partial to gallows humor. To wit:
"We've come this far."
At this Carl snorted.
"What? Sully said.
"Nothing," Carl said. "I was just thinking about Napoleon invading Russia."
Both Sully and Raymer blinked at this.
"Also the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition and the Vietnam War," Carl continued. "Not one of those clusterf*cks could truly commence until somebody said, What the hell. We've come this far."

The mayor, a former academic with good intentions, and his half-deranged wife, who was only really at home in an imaginary world on the phone with imaginary friends, also had parts to play. Charice’s twin brother, the urbane but unstable Jerome, was another concern in Raymer’s world. There were small roles for Sully’s son and grandson, too. Son Peter was often on his guard, though, as the following would suggest: “Any youthful enthusiasm he expressed for how his grandfather navigated the world Peter considered his duty to temper, lest the romance of the tool belt and barstool take root.” Miss Beryl, the kindly former teacher and Sully’s landlady in the first book, was no longer alive, but she did have a great line in one of the flashbacks: "We don't forgive people because they deserve it," she said. "We forgive them because we deserve it." The fact that no one understands this, she said, doesn’t make it less true.

But the biggest other character was [cliché alert] the town of North Bath. Russo makes us physically present in Ruth’s diner with burgers on the grill, in the low-rent housing where misadventures were sure to take place, and in the lesser of the two taverns that smelled of “stale beer and overmatched urinal cakes.” Russo was also clever to create a rival town, Schuyler Springs, which attracted the nice restaurants, which did not suddenly have funky smells seeping in with the muck, and, going back in time, did not have its spring waters run dry like North Bath did. The contrast was palpable.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It might not have been quite as fresh as its precursor, but it still had plenty of humor, action, and humanity to recommend it. And with books like this, I’m a lot less likely to encounter a Sully, or even a Rub, and think how small their lives must be.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,204 followers
December 22, 2018

A number of years ago I read an article that talked about what a great writer Richard Russo was . I didn’t persue any of his books at that point, but when I came across Empire Falls, I remembered his name. I joined a newly formed book club at work and that was our first book. I fell in love with his writing with that moving, relevant story that takes place in a small fictitious town in Maine. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, deservedly. I fell in love with all of his characters in all of the small towns he writes about in all of his novels I have read since then. Well, not all of them, there are few nasty characters.

Sully from Nobody's Fool is a favorite and I thought it was time that I found out what happened to him and the rest of those characters in North Bath, NY, who I came to care about. Since reading the first book, I saw the movie with a fabulous performance by Paul Newman . As I read the sequel, this is how I saw and heard Sully. My disappointment is that there wasn’t enough Sully in this sequel and I’m sad that Paul Newman isn’t alive to bring back this feisty, good hearted guy to the screen again.

Richard Russo knows small town life. Contrary to what one might think, a lot goes on in North Bath. Since I was last there, people have aged or died or have medical problems, but the diner still thrives. Sully’s long played trifecta came in and while he has more cash than he had in the first book, he’s also facing health issues. Raymer, the sheriff, a widower grieving the loss of his wife who was in the process of leaving him when she falls to her death has a bigger role in the sequel and I really liked this guy. Rub Squeers, still kind of a sad sack whose happiness depends on his friendship with Sully is here, as well as Ruth, Sully’s married ex-lover. Russo has the knack for making you feel as if you are hanging out with people. I laughed at the almost slapstick like minutes and was touched by the relationships and cringed at a few scary moments. This is vintage Russo - funny, full of heart, with characters who might not be our neighbors because we don’t live in a small town, but are recognizable and endearing because they are like us in so many ways. If you loved Nobody's Fool, I suspect you’ll enjoy this one. If you didn’t read it, I definitely recommend them both.

Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,548 followers
June 4, 2017
Richard Russo has not lost his touch, and that's for true. The sequel to Nobody's Fool is every bit as funny, morbid, and touching as its predecessor. Sully is a wonderfully lovable protagonist. The 10 year gap in literary time between the two books invites comparison to Updike's Rabbit tetrology, and indeed the descriptions of love, loss, remorse, and hope echo as strongly and vibrantly under Russo's pen as they do under Updike's. On the other hand, Sully's story is less bound to the decades it transpires in then Henry Angstrom's.

The narration is solid and draws the reader inescapably into sympathy with the hapless Rub, Zach, and especially Raymer. There are lots of throwbacks to the first book, but I felt they served to round out this second book rather than detracting from it. The addition of Rub the dog was a marvelous and fantastic comic device. The theme of redemption and forgiveness is strong here and lovingly written with marvelous dialogs and a beautifully compressed timeline - how Russo is able to stretch a barely 48h period into about 500 pages of compelling prose was impressive.

No spoilers here, but I would highly recommend reading both Sully novels as picker-uppers. These times are relatively dark and sometimes hopeless, but Russo is able to find the spark of humanity in all its pathos and beauty in the town of North Bath. Fuck Skyler Springs, Bath is looking up! Too bad we probably won't see anymore stories from this marvelous set of characters.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,829 followers
May 1, 2020
If Richard Russo wasn’t a great writer he might have made a pretty good physicist because he seems to know all about inertia. Or at least he’s an expert at having his characters struggle against its force whether they're trying to get moving or change direction.

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.

In addition to Sully and Raymer we catch up with several other Bath residents. Rub feels forsaken and heartbroken that he doesn’t get to spend all day working with his best friend Sully anymore. Carl Roebuck’s construction company is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and a disgusting unknown substance oozing of the basement in his latest project isn’t going to improve that situation. Ruth used to cheat on her husband with Sully, but even though their affair has cooled off she is growing conflicted about his regular presence in the diner she runs. She’s also worried that about her no-good former son-in-law hanging around now that he’s out of jail despite the restraining order against him. Raymer has to deal with his sassy officer Charice whose sharp tongue often makes him feel even dumber than usual, and her twin brother Jerome isn’t helping his state of mind either.

There’s a couple of things that set this apart from Nobody’s Fool. The first book happened over several months and took its time getting you into the small town rhythms of Sully’s life. Everything here occurs over an eventful 48 hours that begins with a funeral and includes a construction accident, deadly reptiles, a tree pruning mishap, lightning strikes, and a crime spree. Russo does a nice job of filling us in on the back stories of the previous novel while catching us up on what’s happened since, but as with Nobody’s Fool or Empire Falls the real charm lies not with the story but with the characters.

You’d think that with small town folks like these would be fairly dull, but Russo gives us the rich inner lives of each person he shifts the focus to so that each of them feels like the hero of their own epic story. Even a pretty simple and stupid guy like Rub, whose biggest dreams are of free cheeseburgers, becomes a minor tragedy as he reflects on how much he misses working with Sully every day and faces the realization that things will never be like that again. However, Russo is also constantly throwing in touches of comedy that keep things from becoming maudlin and morose.

Sully is as big a draw here as he was in the first novel. There he was an aging rogue who was determined to live his own way even if he acknowledged that his stubbornness was preventing him from ever getting ahead. Older now and facing his own mortality Sully has started to reflect a bit more on what his actions mean for the lives of others.

Raymer is the second major piece and maybe more of an accomplishment for Russo. Moving an existing character like Sully forward ten years has the advantage of starting with a known quantity. Raymer was a very minor figure in the first book who was portrayed as a complete idiot. Turning him from that into a sympathetic guy who constantly thinks of himself as a fool who is failing at everything was no easy task. He could have come across as self-pitying or tiresome, but I found myself engaged and rooting hard for Raymer to pull his act together.

As with other two Russo books I’ve read it did seem to go on a bit too long, and there were a few too many story twists and turns. Still, he’s got an incredible knack for writing about these small town people and immersing us in their lives to the point where I’m interested and entertained by pretty much anything they’re doing. It’s a great follow up to Nobody’s Fool with the same warmth and humor.

One thing did bum me out while reading this. Nobody’s Fool was adapted into a very good movie starring Paul Newman as Sully. Newman died in 2008 so obviously he couldn’t reprise the role, but that film also had Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who was just starting out at the time, playing Raymer. Reading this now I was repeatedly struck by the thought this would have been a fantastic part for Hoffman to come back to. More’s the pity.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,510 followers
July 3, 2016
This satirical tale of working class society in a worn-out industrial town in upstate New York called Bath entertained me with lots of shenanigans of its many fools. Fools like you and me, I presume. Men like Sully who don’t care about money and acquiring things, but find the most happiness at his favorite bar with beer, a card game, and joking with old friends. Or a man like Gus, the mayor, who keeps trying money-making development projects and takes it in stride when unforeseen disasters occur. Or a man like Doug Raymer, chief of police, who can’t get past his wife dying from a fall down the stairs while making a getaway to be with a lover he is now obsessed with identifying. The women in this tale are mostly fools for waiting for men to change, like the black dispatcher Charice, who hopes Raymer will overlook her constant criticism and recognize her secret love for him. Or the café owner Ruth, who keeps compromising with her husband Zack’s extreme obsession with collecting broken appliances and furniture much faster than his capability to fix them (“The garage was now Poland. Occupied”).

Despite plenty of buffoonery and mishaps nursed for humor, Russo paints these characters with a warm heart, and most are loveable 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 judgment of others. For the town, its downhill economy is made more painful by the contrast with neighboring 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.

Sully is an anti-hero in a long literary tradition of bums we come to admire because of their joie de vivre. Though a cad for all his affairs with married women and aversion to commitment, he truly listens to people and continually tries to help others. At 70, his womanizing is at low ebb, but he still gets a kick out of mischief such as stealing the wheel boots Raymer puts on his car for unpaid parking tickets or continually nabbing Gus’ snowblower and not returning it. His love and loyalty for his terrier Rub are touching and often comic, with the coda to every adventure having something to do with his lack of bladder control, his constant chewing of his dick, or confusion in referents in conversation with respect to his hapless human buddy also nicknamed Rub. We constantly want Sully to do something to really help Ruth, with whom he had a loving affair in their younger years. But like a skittish horse, his efforts to assist her and other women are restrained by a built-in wariness:

Yet again he’d allowed himself to be bushwhacked by a woman’s unhappiness. For this to happen over and over, he hadto be some kind of stupid. It had been going his whole life, starting with his mother, the poor woman. …It wasn’t long after his mother was in the ground that Sully started disappointing women in his own right, one after another, no stopping that runaway train once it got pointed downhill.

Russo is deliciously brilliant in the timing of his comic delivery and dialog. As a sample, Gus, forced to ride in Sully’s pee-drenched truck, comments:

In this vehicle we witness the sad demise of fundamental Western values. Pride. Order. Personal responsibility. Rudimentary hygiene.

As another example, here Ruth has come home tired from work, when her husband doesn’t quite catch on to her unhappiness over the disassembled vacuum cleaner parts in their living room:
“What’s the matter, then?”
Two responses immediately suggested themselves: everything and nothing. Both true, neither accurate.
“I just …”
“Just what?”
“Just once I’d like to come home and find …”
“A new life.”

The big drama of the tale has to do with who in the town will stand up to Ruth’s son-in-law, Roy, just out of prison for robbery and showing signs of returning to his violent treatment of her daughter. He claims to have changed from getting religion and anger management treatment, but it’s the members of the community that must change and take effective action. As in Shakespeare, comedy and life itself gain their ultimate potency perhaps only in relationship to evil and death.

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).
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
May 11, 2016
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

Sequels make me nervous. If I'm reading books featuring a regular character or a planned series, that's one thing, but I always worry when an author releases a follow-up, particularly if it's a book I loved. And when the sequel comes a long time after the original, I'm even more wary, because I can't help but wonder if the author will be able to capture the same magic they did originally.

Needless to say, I had a lot of trepidation when I heard that Richard Russo had written a sequel to Nobody's Fool 23 years after the original was published. Not only is that one of my favorite books, but the 1994 film adaptation starring Paul Newman is a favorite as well. I believe Russo is one of the most talented writers around, but would he be able to make us care about the irascible Donald "Sully" Sullivan once again?

Yep, he did.

In the years since Nobody's Fool , Sully has achieved financial stability for probably the first time in his life, but everything else is still kind of screwed up. He's been told by his doctors at the VA that he has maybe 1-2 years to live if he doesn't have a cardiac procedure done, although there's no guarantee he'd survive the procedure. While the affair between him and Ruth, the married woman he has been carrying on with for years, has ended, they've maintained an easy companionship—until suddenly she doesn't want him around anymore. His son, Peter, is getting ready to move away once Sully's grandson goes to college, and Sully doesn't want to admit how much he'll miss him. And Rub, Sully's best friend and favorite object of his torment and teasing, is a little needier than usual lately.

But Sully isn't the only focus of Everybody's Fool , as he was in the first book. In fact, he takes a bit of a back seat to a host of other characters, particularly beleaguered police chief Doug Raymer, who is trying to figure out the identity of the man his wife was about to leave him for when she died in a freak accident, and just can't seem to catch a break otherwise; Mayor Gus Moynihan, whose plans for the city of North Bath don't seem to be coming to fruition, much like everything else in his life; Ruth, who is having trouble dealing with all of the people in her life—Sully, her husband, her daughter, and her ex-con son-in-law, who has just been released from prison yet again; and Sully's one-time nemesis, Carl Roebuck, who seems to be doing a good job of ruining himself.

Russo is in peak form as he navigates these stories, once again creating memorable, flawed characters you cannot get out of your mind. While I wish the book had spent more time on Sully again, as I believe he is the most interesting character of all, I didn't feel as if the book lost any strength when telling others' stories. These are funny, charming, sensitive, and at times, emotional people and their interactions with one another ignite the book like little firecrackers.

Everybody's Fool is the story of friendship, love, loss, fear, strength, and weakness. It's certainly a reflection on growing older and figuring out just what mark you're going to leave on the world, as well as the desire (at least in some) to correct the course their lives are on before it's too late. It's also a story of how we're haunted by the things we didn't do or say sometimes more than those we did.

Richard Russo once again proves he is a writer to be reckoned with, and a storyteller on a different plane from most of his contemporaries. He is a chronicler of the foibles and follies of the human spirit, and does so with humor and heart. While this book doesn't quite match Nobody's Fool , it's still pretty darned good. And now I wait for his next book...

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,054 reviews584 followers
May 6, 2021
A year ago, almost to the day, I finished reading Nobody’s Fool, Russo’s first book set in his imaginary town of North Bath, New York. I’d been introduced to Sully, Rub, Mrs Peoples and the rest of the cast and had enjoyed my time with them so much that I was delighted to learn that a follow-up book was also available. It was late August by the time I sat down to devour this second episode. But it didn’t quite turn out that way, I got stuck after about 50 pages. The book had opened with a lengthy section set at the funeral of the local judge, seen through the eyes of Chief of Police Douglas Raymer. I didn’t recognise Raymer – was he in the first book? And even if he was, where’s Sully and Rub? It didn't seem to have the flow or the instant appeal of the first book. I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for a couple of months.

But I kept seeing great reviews and I knew I had to give it a second chance. And I’m so glad I did! Raymer, it turns out, was in the first book – in a cameo role, he was the cop Sully had coldcocked one day after a verbal joust – and he is the central character this time around. At the funeral Raymer had been ruminating on the fact that his wife had been about to leave him when she tragically tripped and fell down the stairs at their home and died from her injuries. This had happened very recently and left him haunted by not only the discovery of her body but also the knowledge that she'd had an unknown lover - someone he most likely knows - somewhere in this town. He is desperate to know who it was and he has one clue, a device to remotely open a garage door has been found hidden in her car and the police chief is certain it will lead him to the man.

Sully is here to, as is best friend Rub and most of the other people I’d met before. But ten years have passed and a number of characters are no more. Sully’s close friend Wirf, the one-legged lawyer, and his landlady Mrs Peoples have died. It transpires that Mrs Peoples bequeathed her house to Sully – the house in which she’d occupied the ground floor whilst renting him the first floor space. But apart from Sully’s financial state having significantly improved (and that of his sometime former boss, Carl, having nose dived) little else seems to have changed. That is apart from Sully’s health. He’d always had a bad knee but more seriously now he’s been diagnosed as suffering from a serious heart condition – one that is likely to see him off in a year or so unless he does something about it.

There are plenty of comic moments as we track the lives of these people but there’s now a touch of darkness here too. Roy Purdy – another minor character from the first book – is back in town and eager to cause trouble and personal injury. This is something that was largely absent from the first book but it adds additional texture this time around. Yes, at heart it’s an amusing tale of working-class people in a small, relatively poor town, but Purdy’s inclusion here alters the balance somewhat – for the better, I think.

The further I got into this book the more I became invested in the fate of Raymer and Sully in particular, but others too. I wanted them to succeed, to be happy… and to be healthy. By the time I’d got to the end I’d already decided I wanted a chapter three to this story – I want to know what happens next. It’s a brilliantly engaging piece and lovers of Nobody’s Fool will find plenty to relish here. What a skilful writer Russo is: able to create comic moments and quick-fire dialogue to amuse and engage the reader, but also able to to inject that element of fear and tension too. It’s a brilliant piece of work, I loved it and I’ll miss it dearly.

My thanks to Atlantic Books and NetGalley for supplying a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,349 reviews4,864 followers
November 25, 2021

This is a follow-up to "Nobody's Fool" but the protagonists have enough backstory - and are so vividly depicted - that it can be read as a standalone. I found the story engaging, touching, and funny - filled with great characters and memorable scenes. The story revolves around Police Chief Douglas Raymer, who has a lot on his plate.

The story takes place in the down-on-its-luck town of North Bath in upstate New York. As the book opens, Chief of Police Douglas Raymer is attending the funeral of Judge Barton Flatt, who often made fun of the hapless cop - especially when Raymer's wild shot almost hit an elderly woman on her toilet.

Raymer's also brooding because he found a garage remote in the car of his late wife Becka. Raymer's sure the remote belonged to Becka's secret lover and thinks he can identify the man by testing the device on garages around town.

But a series of adventures and misadventures - including fainting into the judge's grave; losing the remote; getting hit by lightning; hunting for a loose cobra; dealing with a dim deputy; and tracking down a hit-and-run driver - make it hard for Raymer to carry out his plan. Raymer also has a soft spot for his assistant Charice, whose back porch he nearly wrecks, and worries that Charice's cop brother Jerome might be after his job.

Meanwhile, Raymer's 'frenemy' Sully - a sort of bad boy construction worker who's now 70 years old and unexpectedly wealthy - has developed a serious heart ailment.

Sully still likes to stop by the diner run by his married ex-lover Ruth and hang out in Gert's bar - where he's usually joined by Rub, a mentally slow grave digger who views Sully as his best friend.

Over the course of the story Sully offers to assist Carl Roebuck - a huckster developer whose shoddy projects have been (spectacularly) exposed; helps Chief Raymer dig up a body; and faces off with Roy Purdy - a thief, wife-beater, and ex-con who has scores to settle. Purdy is easily the most despicable character in the story.

Other interesting characters include: the mayor's wife Alice, who frequently 'speaks to people' on the detached handset of her pink princess phone - which she seems to think is a cell phone;

Alice's former husband - a horrible man and gifted mimic who delights in manipulating and tormenting people; Sully's dog, also called Rub - a neurotic pooch who's always getting the pee scared out of him;

A shiftless apartment sitter who drinks beer, watches TV, and not quite knowingly signs for packages containing venomous snakes;

Ruth's daughter (and Purdy's ex-wife) Janey - who can't stay away from her violent ex; and Miss Beryl - the deceased teacher who really cared about Sully and Raymer.

I was amused by the humorous situations the characters get into and liked the book's comic tone. On the other hand I hated Roy Purdy and hoped he'd get what was coming to him. The zany action in the story leads to a plausible and satisfying ending.....with room for another volume in the series. I'd highly recommend the book to fans of humorous literary novels.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,138 followers
February 21, 2017
A fun journey back to small town Bath, New York with some of the old and a few new faces too.....at least to my recollection.

Truth be told, it did take me a while to get back into the story again, and I would have liked more of Sully overall, but before long, I was hooked on Russo's writing and the kooky fun-loving characters from Nobody's Fool.

Get ready for plenty of laughs, a few crazy visits to the cemetery, and a scary prognosis. We also encounter a creepy psychopath, a vile, disgusting piece of sh*t loser and more than one shocker along the way.

Entertaining read.

Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,497 reviews961 followers
January 17, 2020
"So what's a cobra doing in upstate New York?"

To find out the answer to this existential question we need to return to North Bath, a serious contender for the Unluckiest City in America Award. It's been ten years since the events described in "Nobody's Fool" and little has changed apparently in this jinxed, destitute urbis. Sully, the protagonist of the first episode, has had a bit of personal luck in the financial department, but he has a new set of worries now that he is in his sixties: boredom since he doesn't have to work as hard, a heart engine that is fast clogging and sputtering, a girlfriend (Ruth) that feels trapped both in the town and in their relationship, miscommunications with his son, and so on ...

Yet, while he still plays a major role in the current debacle, the main character of the study this time is not Sully but his old Nemesis, constable Douglas Raymer, now advanced to the position of Chief of Police for North Bath, despite being considered a moron by the whole population of the city.

Raymer had always been tortured by self-doubt, allowing other people's opinions about him to trump his own so thoroughly that he was never sure he actually had any.

Poisonous snakes in his tenement building are only the tip of the iceberg in the list of troubles haunting Raymer, troubles going all the way back to being bullied in school for being slower than most and easily flustered. Even now, four decades later, Douglas is still pondering what his old teacher, the enchanting Miss Beryl Peoples, tried to tell him in the margin notes of his literary compositions:

The sides of the old lady's triangle were 'Subject', 'Audience' and 'Speaker', and most of the questions she scribbled in the margins of their papers had to do with the relationship between them. "What are you writing ABOUT?" "Just who do you imagine your AUDIENCE to be?" "Who are you? Who is this Douglas Raymer?"

Short answer: he is everybody's fool in the town of North Bath, and this is his story ...

Subject : the ordinary lives and worries of small people living in a small town, with a particular focus on the loser attitude of Douglas Raymer, told in long interior monologues that devolve later in the novel into a full blown schizoid episode that reminded me strongly of the personality of Jim Carey in "The Mask". The funny side of his situation are as entertaining as the ones in the movie, but the book is much better at showing Raymer as a redeemable human being.

Revise, revise, revise, Miss Beryl always recommended. Writing is thinking, and good, honest thinking involves revision.

Just like the character in the movie, Raymer takes the punches from everybody around him, until he reaches the end of his tether in a fateful day that see him pitching forward into an open grave (not a spoiler, it happens in the very first chapter) . He could curl up and hide as the fool he has been so far, or he can revise the story of his life, as Miss Peoples advised him so long ago.

Something in these people's natures, he'd reluctantly concluded, was rigid, unalterable. They needed to believe that luck ruled the world and that theirs was bad and would remain so forever and ever, amen, a credo that let them off the hook and excused them from truly engaging in the present, much less the future.

The dilemma of Douglas Raymer is reiterated in the lives of many other inhabitants of the town of North Bath, and for that matter in so many other post-industrial centers of industry around the world that have become ghost towns. You either give up, or you try to work something out with the lemons life gave you. For me, Richard Russo is unique among my favorite writers for the empathy he feels for these characters, for his ability to find something to laugh about in even the bleakest situation, and for his refusal to give in to despair. As Ruth, the waitress, remarks, "We all fuck up." at one point in our lifetime, sometimes with tragic consequences, but we still have to wake up the next day and deal with the consequences. In a similar situation are Sully, still angry at his abusive father and unable to connect in his turn with his son. So is Carl Roebuck, the crooked gigolo who deals with health issues and insolvency and divorce. So is the town manager who tries to turn the bad luck around and deals with a clinically depressed wife at home. So is Ruth's daughter who cannot disengage herself from an ex-husband who already put her in hospital twice. Or Jerome, the smooth policeman with the expensive car from the prosperous town nearby. Only Charice, the no-nonsense police dispatcher in North Bath seems to have her s__t together.

"You are a fool. So am I. So's just about everybody we know, dude. I mean, look around. Who's not a damn fool most of the time?"

She's there both for her brother Jerome, and for clueless Raymer, especially when he moons about his recently deceased and adulterous wife.

"Stop punishing yourself. Bottom line? You weren't rich, so it must've been love. It just didn't last."
"Yeah, but why not? It's not like I changed. I didn't trick her. Right to the end, I was the same guy she married."
"Maybe that's it. Maybe she wanted you to change. Grow. Try new things. Expand your horizons."
"She 'was' my horizon. I was supposed to be 'her' horizon."
"That's asking a lot."


The novel is rather long, or at least feel a bit slower than the first one, but I have a feeling it will be one of my top three reads of 2018, despite some stiff competition. Richard Russo may not be as lyrical as Pessoa, or as highbrow as Hesse, but he is closer to my heart than them and many others I read only to pass the time of day. He may take some time to get to the point, but once you get there it is like an illumination. "Nobody's Fool" and "Everybody's Fool" show me that it's OK to be poor, to make mistakes, just as long as you keep revising your story. Here's a sample of the condensed Russo wisdom from this lecture.

Okay, so the brain was a strange, unruly organ.

- - - -

"You don't have to be hard, just because the world is."

- - - -

"I also think it's possible for us to be better people tomorrow than we are today."
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,745 reviews2,275 followers
May 23, 2016

Twenty-two years may have passed since Russo wrote about Bath’s residents Sully and friends in “Nobody’s Fool,” and ten years may have passed for those same residents of Bath in literary time for Sully and friends, but it’s been mere months since I last visited Bath, New York, courtesy of Mr. Russo. I felt as if I had just stepped away for a spell when I returned to visit courtesy of “Everybody’s Fool.”

Nothing really happens in Bath that’s worthy of a news report to outsiders, there’s a funeral or two, but you won’t see reporters from the big city spending time hunting down stories there. For all the years that have passed, not much has changed. Sully’s a little older, a little better off financially, courtesy of his former teacher and landlady, Miss Beryl to everyone but Sully. Those who are missing, include Miss Beryl, and Judge Barton Flatt who is being interred as “Everybody’s Fool” begins, and Raymer’s wife Becka.

If only Raymer could figure out whose garage door opens with the garage door opener he found in Becka’s car after her sudden departure from Raymer was interrupted with her sudden departure from life itself. Ah, sweet mysteries of life, sometimes they’re just better left unsolved.

As in Nobody’s Fool, what makes Russo’s book come alive is the simple interactions of the characters, love ‘em or not, their sometimes small problems and foibles paint a portrait of Bath and its residents that will stay with you. Russo keeps shining in Everybody’s Fool.
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews323 followers
June 30, 2016
In case you haven't read Nobody's Fool, Richard Russo's well-regarded prequel to this, fear not: it's not remotely necessary to have read it before reading (and enjoying) Everybody's Fool. I barely remember the precursor, (which I think I liked; not really sure). There'll be no room for doubt on this one: without a doubt, one of the best books I've read this year. Perhaps as good as his 2002 Pulitzer Winner Empire Falls. Maybe even a teensy bit better, as it's...okay, not compact (at close to 500 pages), but it just flows like spun silk. It's (from what I recall of Empire Falls) much more character-driven. They're all pretty flawed characters (so much so that the title begs to have an article inserted: "Everyone's A Fool") but their flaws (while driving the plot in often hilarious ways) are (for the most part, with one glaring exception) relatable, if not universally likable. From the North Bath (New York) Chief of Police Doug Raymer (who's going nuts and hearing voices on and off the job, obsessing over the potential dalliances of his recently deceased wife); to Donald "Sully" Sullivan (central to the plot of Nobody's Fool a perennially poor, congenial jack of all trades who's come into some money just as he's diagnosed with with potentially terminal illness) to Gus Moynihan (msyor of North Bath, whose wife roams the town talking on a pink conventional landline phone): to sadsack Rub Squeers, gravedigger and shitslinger with a bad stutter and no friends at all except for Sully, who treats the guy like crap (even. naming his piss-pot dog (the cover hound?) "Rub" after him; Carl Roebuck (whose construction company may well be the worst one ever, addicted either to porn or Audrey Hepburn movies); to...oh hell, everyone's got something off kilter about them, but not in a obnoxiously mawkish sort of way, just in a often-funny-but-very-human manner that makes the book utterly delicious and unputdownable. Believe the mildly hyperbolic hype of the first line of the book jacket blurb: "Richard Russo at the very top of his game..." and, for once, believe the 4.24-star GR cume rating: This is pretty damn fine reading. Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,435 reviews816 followers
May 5, 2021
“One of the more serious obstacles to small-town adultery was the problem of what to do with your car. If you left it out at the curb, it would be noticed and maybe recognized. You could leave it a couple blocks away, but people would still conclude you were having an affair; they’d just be wrong about who you were having it with.”

Sully is back, finally! Of course he’s still in Bath, New York, a small town whose claim to fame was its mineral baths, long gone now, as are the tourists and the town’s young. There’s not a lot to do except to hang out at the White Horse or Hattie’s to tell lies and gossip and conclude all sorts of people are having affairs. Well, at least an affair is something to do, right?

“People used to come from as far away as Atlanta to take the waters.

‘But says here it’s located in this Bath place? Not Schuyler Springs?’

‘We’re sister cities,’
Gus [
the mayor] would assure them, but he could tell they’d concluded that Bath was the ugly sister, the one who never got asked out and made her own clothes, though all the other girls loved her.”

Poor old Bath. Sully is seventy now, but feels older. Short of breath, he needs to quit smoking and agree to an operation to insert an internal defibrillator to regulate his irregular heartbeat. So what are his odds if he doesn’t?

‘If you do nothing? Two years, but probably closer to one.’“Your heart could fail at any time,’ the cardiologist admitted. ‘You could die in your sleep.’

This scenario, Sully gathered, was supposed to scare him into the procedure, but it hadn’t. ‘Wake up dead?”’ he said. ‘That doesn’t sound so bad, actually.’

What he didn’t reckon on was how lousy he was going to feel at inconvenient times. Like climbing onto a backhoe in the middle of the night to illegally . . . ah, but that would be a spoiler! Or when hunting someone down with a tire iron because . . . well, that would be a spoiler, too. Let’s just say he finds himself trying desperately to hide the fact that he is not the strong guy that people still assume him to be.

The phrase ‘Two years, but probably closer to one.’ echoes in his mind all through the book. His former lover and good friend Ruth wants to send him on a holiday. She and others talk about ‘the future’ as if there is one. It makes a man think a bit.

Much of the action, and I use the word loosely, revolves around a mysterious garage-door remote and local Police Chief Douglas Raymer. He is convinced it belongs to his late wife’s secret lover and is determined to track him down. Since his wife’s death, he lives in a cheap, smelly, apartment block. He’d hoped that his presence in the building might discourage crime. No such luck.

“Worse, his own apartment had been burgled twice, both crimes still unsolved, though his tape player had turned up at a pawnshop in Schenectady so reasonably priced, Raymer thought, that he’d bought it back.”

This is the kind of gentle humour for which Russo is known. The historic loyalties and rivalries continue, fluctuating according to proximity and need. These would be the frenemies, I’d say. Carl Roebuck, who runs a big construction business, still behaves like a rich ladies’ man and Sully’s boss in spite of the facts that:

1 - Carl has gone broke.

2 - Carl has a certain physical condition that even watching constant porn isn’t curing.

3 – Sully inherited a house and had a windfall, so he is not only rich, he is Carl’s landlord.

“Attired in his customary Ralph Lauren polo shirt—pink today—and light cotton slacks and cream-colored canvas shoes, Carl Roebuck looked, as always, like the owner of an automobile dealership who was late for his tee time.”

Back again also is Rub, Sully’s grubby off-sider who always makes me think of Lonely, the smelly character on the old Edward Woodward British TV series “Callan”. But I digress. “Rub” is also what Sully has named a rather disgusting dog he’s adopted, and he enjoys confusing the human Rub when he gives commands. I found that contrived and not funny and was occasionally caught off-guard myself as to which one he was talking to. The dog and the inside of Sully’s truck doesn’t bear discussing politely, so I won’t.

There is a good action storyline around ex-con Roy, Ruth’s son-in-law, who is out of jail and ignores the restraining order against him, because, well, because he just does. He cannot disagree with someone without smashing them into a wall. He’s put Ruth’s daughter Jane in hospital more than once, and he really crosses the line in this one.

There are some mysterious and exciting bits, but what appeals to me mostly is the familiarity of the people and the glue that seems to stick them together. From one minute to the next, Sully and the others change from irascible old codgers to tender-hearted community elders, loyal to each other. They remind me of people who complain about their parents or their children, but Heaven help someone outside the family complaining about them!

Russo understands how history and age can make strange bedfellows, sometimes literally. Sharing a past from childhood creates some bonds that may go unnoticed for years. Often while reading this, I was reminded of the saying, “The older I get, the better I used to be”. It’s an entertaining read, and I’d love to think Sully will live to fight another day.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
994 reviews2,785 followers
June 19, 2019
**Mr. Russo has a new book, Chances Are coming out in July**

This book has so many glowing reviews and after reading it I can see why!! I am a long time fan of Russo, my favorite book still being “Empire Falls”. For some reason the characters in that book just spoke to me at that particular time in my life. I did not read “Nobody’s Fool” so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pick up the thread of the story.

I should not have worried. Mr. Russo so well describes his characters that I had no problem understanding Sully or any of the other characters. Sully has just been told by his doctor that he has 1 to 2 years to live if he doesn’t have cardiac surgery done and he has other upheavals in his life. His son is moving away and his grandson going away to college. He is anticipating and already feeling loneliness.

This writer is able to turn everyday life and characters, set in the moribund town of North Bath, NY, into something so special. There are sensitive, funny, emotional and flawed characters in “Everybody’s Fool” and their interactions with each other make for a great read. The town is still struggling to survive while it’s neighbor Schuyler Springs continues to prosper.

I won’t go through the plot, there are lots of reviews out there. This is a book that I think everyone would enjoy. It touches upon fear, love, friendship, loss and human weaknesses. We probably know someone like Sully, Gus, Doug or Ruth and can relate to them.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read an exceptionally well written novel about the human spirit.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,048 reviews904 followers
February 16, 2019
I've been meaning to read Richard Russo for some years. I'm glad I finally got around to it, thanks to the library audiobook, which was excellent.

It took me a little while to get my head around who was who, especially since the novel has quite a few characters, but it's fast-paced and dialogue rich. Once I got my bearings, I was flying.

Although I'm a city girl through and through, I love reading books set in small towns.
The setting for this novel is North Bath, New York. It's a small, dormant town, without much going on, on the surface. Of course, people's lives are filled with personal dramas, regrets, mishaps, misunderstanding, struggles and insecurities. Russo does a brilliant job (re)introducing the characters and their issues, so much so, I felt I was living in their heads, so I became invested in what happens to them.

The situational and verbal humour had me giggle several times. The conclusion was utterly satisfying.

Everybody's Fool was so thoroughly enjoyable, I want to jump into another Russo novel, but it'll have to wait, as I've got four library books coming in at the same time.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,228 reviews2,060 followers
March 13, 2020
I have been waiting for ages to read this author who everyone raves about. I obviously picked the wrong book for my first experience and I am so disappointed!

The title is totally spot on. Everyone in the book is a fool and this became very irritating. The humour ranges from distasteful (that poor dog!) to slap stick. I have never been able to laugh at people or animals being hurt.

On the one hand I can clearly see the author's talent and skill but at the same time I did not like the way he applied it in this book. I have seen a few reviews now where others feel the same way and apparently Empire Falls is very good. I will keep that in mind and try Russo again in the future.
Profile Image for Camie.
900 reviews187 followers
December 4, 2016
Ah at last, the long awaited Everybody's Fool the sequel to Nobody's Fool which was written in 1993 and was made into both a movie and award winning HBO miniseries. Pulitzer Prize winning (Empire Falls) Richard Russo is a master story teller when it comes to life in small town America, and I was happy to be back in Bath , upstate New York again with Sully, his hapless friend Rub, and the rest of the gang. The Boston Globe calls it a big rambunctious novel with endless riffs and unstoppable hopefulness. Sully is getting on in years and the main focus has shifted to other characters whom we first met in the last book. I'm not sure how we end up loving some of these pretty inhospitable characters and yet we do. I'd say that's Russo's main writing strength, providing us characters who are so splendid in their imperfection that we cannot help but cheer them on. If you are a true Russo fan like me, this book will not disappoint. 5 stars
Profile Image for Jill.
1,170 reviews1,647 followers
May 3, 2016
Thomas Wolfe once famously wrote, “You can’t go home again.” In Everybody’s Fool, Richard Russo proves that indeed, you can.

“Home”, in this case, is a place his readers have visited 12 years ago – a deadbeat town called Bath in upstate New York. In Nobody’s Fool, we first became acquainted with Sully, a down-and-out, down-on-his-luck, middle-aged son of an abusive father. Other ordinary, extraordinary characters – from Miss Beryl, his landlord/teacher to Carl, his landlord, and Ruth, his love interest, are also memorably portrayed.

In Everybody’s Fool, the characters are now older, but no wiser. Sully is back – older and with just two years (maybe one) year to live as a result of a faulty heart. The emphasis shifts to Doug Raymer, a more minor character in the first book, who “married up” to a very attractive woman who died of an accident before the book begins. Knowing he was cuckholded and trying to figure out “who did it”, struggling with feelings for Charice, his formidable take-no-prisoners assistant, and believing his days as police chief are numbered, Raymer is at a crucial crossroads in his life.

In Nobody’s Fool, Russo, an ultimate storyteller, shows once again that fate is funny and most of all, unpredictable. With warmth and more than a measure of compassion, he nails the dynamics of a small mill town that is becoming overshadowed by its twin city (Schuyler Falls) with it trendy shops and restaurants that serve – gasp! – ramps.

Where but in a Russo book can readers meet a cobra on the loose from a purveyor of exotic animals that emotionally terrorizes the town? Or a dog named Rub (the same name as Sully’s hapless, worshipping friend) who has an obsession with his – ahem – bloody genitals. Or an anxiety-prone officer (“My name is Bond. Jerome Bond.”) who happens to be the twin brother of his love interest, Charice. Or a garage door opener that holds the key to who Raymer’s wife was sleeping with, but which is inadvertently buried with the body of a hypocritical, irascible judge who Raymer has long hated. Or the mayor’s emotionally fragile wife, Alice, who walks around talking into an unplugged princess phone at a time when cell phones have become ubniqutious.

The thing is, these situations don’t feel unreal; we believe them and commiserate with the characters…perhaps because we sense that Russo takes them very seriously. And despite ourselves, we cheer for them. We want Raymer to see what’s right in front of his eyes – that he and Charice belong together. We want Ruth (Sully’s love interest from Nobody’s Fool) and her daughter Janey to thrive, despite harassment by Janey’s ex-convict husband (one of the sorriest characters you’ll meet in literature). We want them to self-forgive (as Miss Beryl once said, “We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. We forgive them because we deserve it.”)

I loved being engrossed in Richard Russo’s world – the world of Bath, New York – for one glorious week. Sincere thanks to the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, for providing me with an early copy.

Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,260 reviews451 followers
October 15, 2017
You know that feature in the Sunday NYT Book Review every week, BY THE BOOK, where one of the interview questions is always "What 3 authors would you invite to a dinner party"? Richard Russo would be first on my list, because his character's humor and sarcastic remarks make me laugh out loud. The other two authors would be two who are on the top of the best seller lists week after week, (insert your own choices here) who can't write worth a damn, but sell millions of books to people who don't know any better. Then I would just sit quietly and watch Russo destroy them with his superior wit, while I melted with laughter and satisfaction.

If course, that will never happen because I am not an author, so the NYT will never ask me that question. But even better, if I could invite literary characters to my pretend dinner party, Donald Sullivan, aka Sully, from this book and it's predecessor "Nobody's Fool", would be at the top of my list. And it wouldn't be a dinner party, but a bar stool, with cheeseburgers and beer. Jerome and Charise would be there, and Raymer, the Chief of Police, and Ruth, and all the people in the failing little town of Bath, NY. We'd have a high old time joking and laughing, and raking people over the coals, understanding at the end of the day that we cared about each other and would be there when things got bad. As they do.

Real people, screwing up and losing control, and trying harder to be better people tomorrow than they were today, that's what Richard Russo writes about so well. And he makes me laugh while he does it.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,496 reviews9 followers
November 19, 2016
3.5 stars

Wow, 18 1/2 hours of audio is a long book. And some of it is a rehash of the first book, Nobody's Fool, so the mind wanders. If it wasn't for the mix of every day, ordinary characters and the outright crazy bunch that inhabit North Bath, there would be nothing special about the book. My favorite remains Sully, a gruff old guy, getting up in years now and not exactly healthy, but compared to everyone else in town, he's heroic, iconic, and angelic. I kept wanting more of him!

Mark Brammall again flawlessly narrates the audio.

Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
April 5, 2017
HILLDALE CEMETERY IN North Bath was cleaved right down the middle, its Hill and Dale sections divided by a two-lane macadam road, originally a colonial cart path. Death was not a thing unknown to the town’s first hearty residents, but they seemed to have badly misjudged how much of it there’d be, how much ground would be needed to accommodate those lost to harsh winters, violent encounters with savages and all manner of illness. Or was it life, their own fecundity, they’d miscalculated? Ironically, it amounted to the same thing. The plot of land set aside on the outskirts of town became crowded, then overcrowded, then chock-full, until finally the dead broke containment, spilling across the now-paved road onto the barren flats and reaching as far as the new highway spur that led to the interstate. Where they’d head next was anybody’s guess
So begins this tale of the fictional town Bath, a small settlement near New York, at the foothills of the Adirondacks, where the living inhabitants are as present in the grave yard as the dead ones. If people did not drove over someone's grandmother's face seeking easy parking near the charming flat grave markers in Dale, to the annoyance of the now late Mrs. Beryl Peoples herself, they were seeking enlightenment and answers for their uprooted lives by talking to their loved ones buried there. Many of the town's mysteries were hidden six feet under. It is as though the living souls simply could not function without the input of the previous generations residing there.

Even Judge Barton Flatt turned in his grave after a very important piece of evidence was accidentally buried with him. Chief of Police, Douglas Raymer had an obsession with his wife, Becka's death. He could not let go of the need to find her former lover. Sully needed to figure out his unwillingness to commit to women after his own wife's death.

Mrs. Beryl Peoples ruled the roost, dead and alive, being the most important influential person in the community. She was still alive and thriving in all her former students' lives. Nobody could forget or escape her. Every single person had some sort of connection to her.

The unseasonably warm weather in May would bring heavy rains, lightning and old caskets to the light. Many of the deceased would land up in the road, and truths will finally be exposed with it.

The colorful, well-developed yet flawed characters fill up the pages of this endearing and compassionate tale. The wit brings relief from the everyday struggles to survive their world and themselves!

Mayor Gus Moynihan, who has big plans for Bath tries very hard to change the neurotic mindset of the inhabitants. They need to bring development and tourists to their abode, and nothing will keep him from trying to accomplish his goals. It is difficult for an incomer, like himself, to understand the underlying unspoken rules of the community. However, he is determined to try. People such as Carl Roebuck specializes in ruining himself. Ruth has the diner, her husband, with his hoarding business, as well as her daughter and her son-in-law to deal with. Charise has her brother Jameson to manage. They all have their baggage, becoming heavier and heavier as time passes. Ordinary people are playing out the sins and sorrows of their respective life stories, forcing them to confront their own insecurities and inaptitudes to deal with their past and present challenges.

Not only do the ancestors role out of their graves during periods of prolonged rain, when the pestilential groundwater tunnel under the road, loosening the soil and tugging downhill the caskets of those most recently interred, but dozens of metal drums decorated with skulls and crossbones also surface somewhere else in town. Add to that the stench hanging over the town, which origin cannot be determined, and you've got a series of events stacked against one another that will change everyone's life overnight. A day, is all it will take, after Judge Barton Flatt was laid to rest, for people, past and present, to come undone.

This is a slow moving character-driven tale, with enough details to keep the reader of Richard Russo's writings captured in his excellent word castles as usual. He adds heart, humor and soul to the narrative that are both striking and soothing. This is the second book I read of this author and once again close the book with every intention to pursue more of his work. Mr. Russo is definitely one of my favorite authors.
Profile Image for Howard.
334 reviews234 followers
January 17, 2020
I finished this book a few days ago. It was my eighth Russo novel. And there hasn't been a clunker in the bunch.

I'm not going to write a review because I know that I can't add anything to the discussion that hasn't already been presented by many of my good friends who read the book and have already written excellent reviews. So, with that said, I am off to read every one of them. I advise you to do the same if you haven't read the book or written your own review.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,035 reviews48.5k followers
May 3, 2016
How could 23 years have slipped by since Richard Russo published “Nobody’s Fool”? Was is really in some previous century that we snorted and sniffled over the rambling adventures of Donald “Sully” Sullivan, the wisecracking, self-destructive 60-year-old contractor who rarely lets a bar stool cool? It all seems so disorientingly recent. . . . Who’s the fool now?

Even if you didn’t read that ­big-hearted novel, you probably saw the wonderful film version starring Paul Newman and Jessica Tandy — both, alas, long gone. Set in the moribund town of North Bath, N.Y., “Nobody’s Fool” demonstrated the full range of Russo’s humor and his ear for the baseline tragedy that runs through these working class lives. Later, those tones came into exquisite balance in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Empire Falls” (2001), but the characters of “Nobody’s Fool” still hold their own wacky charm, and it’s a delight to join them again in Russo’s sequel, “Everybody’s Fool.”

A decade has passed in North Bath, and it’s been a deadly one. Death, in fact, is. . . .

To read the full review, go to The Washington Post:
Profile Image for Truman32.
344 reviews100 followers
August 8, 2016
Ok, so I live in a rough part of town where you are more likely to get shanked by a hooker, or pummeled by an escaped convict then you are to get a helping hand or kind word. That’s why it is so imperative that you conceal your phone as you play Pokémon Go while walking down my street, Blood Alley. Normally I wouldn’t risk it. The vagrants and urchins are quick to whip a bottle at your head calling out derisively, “catch this Jigglypuff, dude!” And the cops aren’t much better, always on the take, only letting you pass unmolested if you give them a share of your Poke balls.

But today I was on a mission. I was hot on the trail of a Russo. As you probably know, a Russo is a very rare Pokémon—it speaks with an upstate New York accent, exhibits sardonic wit, seems drawn to oddball down on their luck characters, and it claims to own a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction award.

The Russo I was tracking had left it’s droppings –a wonderful novel, Everybody’s Fool, in the middle of my neighboring street: Severed Ear Lane. This delightful caper was funny and kind while not hesitating hit you in the ticker with the feels—often when you just weren’t looking. All trademarks of the elusive Russo.

Everybody’s Fool, the sequel to Russo’s novel Nobody’s Fool (1993) takes us back to Bath, NY where the cast of eccentric characters is still kicking around. Police Chief Douglas Raymer takes the lead in this novel. He stumbles through misadventure after misadventure, seeking hopelessly for the identity of his deceased wife’s lover with only a mysterious garage door opener as a clue. Through his escapades we get reintroduced to familiar faces from the previous work—Donald “Sully” Sullivan (still looking like Paul Newman); Carl Roebuck (still shifty); and Rub Squares (still sweet dumb, and needy) among others. In the few days the novel covers there are assorted shenanigans—poisonous snakes breaking loose, graves desecrated, shocking assaults, buildings falling over, grown men trapped in trees, and incredibly funny conversations that could be read over and over again without losing one iota of wit and humor. It’s all really great.

I had only happened upon the scarce Russo a few other times—I read and adored it’s novel, Empire Falls, watched some of the movie to Nobody’s Fool, then read something called That Old Cape Magic that at the time I found mildly boring but must have caused unseen issues with my brain because I have not read anything else by the author. Well, with Everybody’s Fool the Russo has shown why he is so revered and sought after—like a rare truffle. The novel has interesting characters, funny situations, and a warmth that makes this winning story one that will stay with you as you ponder life’s little wonders.

Profile Image for Diane Yannick.
569 reviews751 followers
May 30, 2016
I'm a huge fan of Russo's writing but his plotting of this book left me cold. It drifted, in dire need of some major chopping. For me there were too many peripheral characters who just muddied the plot. I was looking forward to catching up with Sully and Raymer 10 years after Nobody's Fool ended. Their small town and personal shortcomings had kept me entertained in NF. What a disappointment!

As evil Roy Purdy said, "Make the best plan you can and then see how it all works out." For the characters in this book, nothing worked out very well. For me, there were too many attempts at humor that fell flat. There was stupid crap like someone peeing on mattresses just to mark his territory and the resulting sludge. There were too many coincidences that strained credibility. There were too many buffoons trying to out-buffoon each other. How many fires, lightning strikes, cheaters, brutal attacks on acquaintances and falls can one book take? I was sick and tired of Raymer and the damned garage remote; by the end I didn't care one whit who his wife's lover was. I found his inner voice (after a lightning strike, of course) to be overdone. Sully and Rub got to be monotonous and too cliched--"retarded" man and his highly esteemed friend.

Sully bore witness to the fact that war changes people. An interview with Russo indicated that this character was based on his dad who came home from the war significantly changed. I liked the idea that things are the same until they aren't. I laughed at the mixed up slogan, "We're not happy until you're not happy." I agree that it's amazing "how much of human destiny is mapped out by third grade."

Overall, a very disappointing sequel by an author who has written FAR better books.
Profile Image for Darlene.
370 reviews132 followers
September 11, 2016
Sometimes when I'm reading or listening to a book, certain stories and characters make me think of song lyrics. This novel,'Everybody's Fool' by Richard Russo brought to mind a couple of lines from an old John Mellencamp song… "Life goes on.. long after the thrill of living is gone."

'Everybody's Fool', a sequel to Richard Russo's 'Nobody's Fool', returns readers to North Bath in upstate New York. Time has passed since we last visited the citizens of North Bath but many of the old familiar characters …. Sully, Rub, Ruth, Doug Raymer and Gus Moynihan… are still around and still doing their best, muddling through their lives.

Since we were last immersed in the lives of the citizens of North Bath, Donald 'Sully' Sullivan's financial situation has greatly improved. He no longer has to take on the menial, backbreaking jobs with his friend Rub. He has come into a bit of money; but as Sully has discovered, when one thing in life works out, often there is a new problem waiting to take its place. In Sully's case, he is facing a health crisis… actually, from what he was told at the VA hospital, this health crisis would most likely be the end for him. He mulls this thought over and over in his mind.. the doctor told him his heart would most likely just stop pumping… he had a year, maybe two. Sitting on his favorite bar stool or sitting at Ruth's diner, he couldn't stop thinking about his heart and his increasing inability to catch his breath. He feels as if there is a bomb in his chest and it gives him a sense of urgency to examine his life. he can't help but think about a question his old eighth grade teacher used to ask him…. "Don't you feel badly that you haven't done more with the life you've been given?"… Sully used to believe he was sure of the answer he had given…. he DIDN'T really feel badly or guilty; the truth was he never thought much about it at all. But all that seems to be changing for him since he has come face-to -face with his own mortality.

As for the other townspeople… Rub, Sully's best friend and faithful sidekick, is feeling out of sorts and lonely since Sully no longer needs to work with him on those jobs that nobody else wants to do. He is afraid that Sully will leave him behind. Mayor Gus Moynihan is fighting a losing battle in his attempts to revitalize North Bath so that it might compete once again with the more popular town of Schuyler Springs. But at every turn, something seems to go wrong with his carefully laid plans. And if that wasn't enough for him to shoulder, his wife, after many years of struggling with mental health issues, seems to have finally lost touch with reality altogether. She can't seem to stop wandering around town with her princess phone in hand and carrying on conversations with people that nobody else can hear.

Ruth, the married woman who has been having a 20+ year affair with Sully is exhausted.. she is trying to keep her diner running, her family from falling apart and she spends a lot of time wondering what her life has come to and fantasizing about getting away from it all.. at the very least, she dreams of escaping to an island where she will find clean, white bathrooms which only a woman can appreciate. And last but certainly not least is police Chief Doug Raymer. Doug is also dealing with a life crisis…. his wife died in a freak accident (she fell down the front porch steps face first) just as she was preparing to leave Doug for an unknown lover… unknown to Doug, of course. After her death, Doug discovered a garage door opener pushed far under the seat in her car and now he is obsessed with the thought of driving around town and aiming the opener at random garage doors, hoping to find the one it opens. Sad as this is, Doug's obsession is blinding him to the fact that his police dispatcher, Charice Bond, is crazy about him. Charice's brother, Jerome, also figures into this very convoluted story. Jerome Bond is also a police officer in the nearby town of Schulyer Springs. He drives around in a bright red Mustang (the 'Stang') and imagines himself the next James Bond… or perhaps I should say JEROME Bond. Jerome, too, is struggling.. with OCD, anxiety and as it turns out, he is hiding a really BIG secret!

If what I have described gives you the impression that North Bath is a pitiful place and its residents are generally crazy, you really WOULD be wrong. And this gets to why Richard Russo is one of my favorite writers. Mr. Russo's amazing talent lies in his descriptions of the down-on-their-luck towns that probably everyone can recognize; and in the sympathetic and strong characters… characters who often seem to be living lives of quiet desperation. Yes, the atmosphere of his stories is suffused with a sense of world weariness.. after all, life isn't always kind. But he tempers the weariness with humor and strength… such as Chief Raymer fainting at a graveside service and tumbling headfirst into the freshly dug grave and the absurdity of Charice's Weber grill tumbling over and catching her porch balcony on fire, just as she and Chief Raymer are finally having that first date.

'Everybody's Fool' reminds me of that old comic strip character, Ziggy… the 'lovable loser'. Try as he might, things just never seemed to work out the way he wished…… Mr. Russo's characters in this wonderful novel are just like Ziggy. They try and try but life just doesn't turn out like they expected or hoped… but that doesn't stop them and they never give up, even if they sometimes ask themselves why. Mr. Russo's stories are always written about people to whom life has not always been fair, and although it seems at times as if they are living lives filled with desperation, every now and then… as what happens with Sully, Ruth and Doug Raymer… they find that life surprises and graces them with something they hadn't even known they wanted.

I LOVED this book and I LOVED the chance to revisit North Bath. I highly recommend this novel and EVERY novel Richard Russo has written!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Allison.
738 reviews21 followers
June 14, 2016
I have been thinking about this book for several days before writing this review. I am a huge fan of Richard Russo, and I believe I have read all his earlier works. It has been a long time since I read the previous story of these characters, Nobody's Fool, and many of the details have been forgotten. To be perfectly honest, the movie version of Sully as played by Paul Newman kept coming unbidden to mind. You can read and follow this story without reading the earlier work.
Let me make something clear, if there were a continuum with the characters of this story on one end and the prim and proper Marian the Librarian on the other, I would be much closer in spirit to Marian than to Sully and his friends. It is a testament to the power of Russo's writing that I could care about the grubby, hard-drinking, needy, underemployed, and emotionally stunted characters of Bath, NY.. Periodically there were times when all I wanted to do was give somebody a bath and talk some sense into him. Yet the pain felt by these individuals was so real that a reader with any empathy ached for these poor sad souls. Balancing this darkness was Russo's trademark wry humor. The dialogue and many of the situations were downright hilarious and kept the reader engaged til the very end. It is clear throughout that Russo loved his characters and their struggling world. Sully stands as a symbol of humanity's strength and compassion. The author's belief in the goodness of Mankind carries the reader through some very dark episodes and across the finish line.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,662 reviews26 followers
February 10, 2017
This was a 4 1/2 stars. The characters, and everything that happens in just a few days in a small town will keep readers engaged. A great portrait of contemporary small town American life in upstate New York where many residents cannot imagine taking a trip to NYC.
Profile Image for Sharyl.
486 reviews15 followers
September 19, 2016
As usual, Richard Russo's storytelling is irresistible. This novel revisits the town of Bath, New York, and the same characters we met in the earlier book, Nobody's Fool. This time, though, there is a mystery at the center of everything, and the main character, if there is one, is Chief of Police Douglas Raymer. It is also ten years later.

Bath is like many small, rural towns that have lost their economic identities. There are some lucky people who are well enough employed, but they seem to be out-numbered by the rest: those who get up at dawn to work multiple jobs, those catching odd jobs here and there, and those who are not up to any of this, chronically warming the same bar stool.

Russo has an enticing, entertaining way of letting the reader into each character's back story while still thrusting the main story forward. The way he keeps several side plots moving and interesting is truly a marvel. But then, his characters and their problems are so real and urgent that of course the reader must find out the poop, the gossip, what's going on!

Another aspect of Russo's novels I love is his use of humor, not to make fun of people, but to both illuminate a character's weakness and soften the sadness of a given situation. And there is much sadness in this novel--and violence. Sadly, some of this cannot be softened, and it is all too realistic.

The opening scene takes place in a cemetery, which is expertly appropriate, given the way many of Bath's denizens are considering their mortality and what it's all been about. What comes next? Russo could easily make this into a trilogy...

I'd recommend any of Richard Russo's books to anyone!

Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,973 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.