Book review: Plots, subplots abound in new novel
“Everybody’s Fool,” by Richard Russo
I seem to get out of control when I’m telling a story of my own (enthusiastically out of control); perhaps I can do justice to Richard Russo’s “Everybody’s Fool.” Plots and subplots abound in this entertaining and endearing book.
“Everybody’s Fool” is a sequel to “Nobody’s Fool” — written and published more than 20 years ago — yet the marvelous characters have aged only 10 years. The characters are all at least half-mad.
The story is set in the fictional town of Bath, in upper New York, which, at the turn of the century, had been a thriving tannery town. Handcrafted gloves went the way of all ways, and the once prosperous town was brought down not only by machinery and toxicity, but also by the drying up of the town’s hot springs.
The town residents eked out a living by working elsewhere, trying to make land deals where there were none and frequenting the few bars and restaurants that still existed.
Sully is the character with whom we bond, along with his “best” friend, Rub. You’ll understand the quotation marks as you learn more about Sully and Rub’s personalities and relationship.
Sully (sometimes with Rub, sometimes without) spends a great deal of time at one or two of the town’s bars; he reminisces about times and important people both in his life previously and presently. He has fond memories of a dear schoolteacher and of a love lost and found once again as a friend. He ponders his friend, Carl, once the bane of his existence and now an old friend who’s suffering (but not too much) from prostate problems.
Sully is a non-hero hero; everyone likes him, yet he is the town’s pain in the ass. He is made lovable by his frailties and is a thoroughly genuine character. Thank you, Richard Russo, for having revived these people. It is hard to imagine Sully at 80.
Other people have entered Bath since its inception. Police Chief Doug Raymer, his deputy, Charisse, and her brother, Jerome, form a story other than Sully’s. Chief Raymer and Charisse’s relationship, or lack thereof, and the chief’s obsession with his deceased wife’s unknown lover make for a puzzle we try and solve for ourselves.
Sully’s previous lover, a married woman named Ruth, her daughter and her rat of a husband constitute yet another narrative facet. Each story is told independently of the other, yet all intertwine, as do most stories of small towns.
There’s a prurient interest in small towns in which people have nothing better to do than conjure up stories about its natives. If you’ve never lived in a small town, try it sometime; it’s never dull.
This book is available at Off the Beaten Path and Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Katie Davidson is a a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path.
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Sunday June 20, 2021