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Everybody's Fool


Everybody's Fool

Richard Russo is to a certain part of upstate New York what John Updike was to a certain part of New England --- its most famous chronicler and most attentive observer of the ways and werefores of the male species, in a rustic setting where the glaring inadequacies of modern-day life are writ large and the people who hate them work hard to forget about them.

EVERYBODY’S FOOL follows the further adventures of Sully, the ultra-masculine ideal denizen of Bath, as he wanders woefully into old age along with his friends and colleagues and the ghosts of those who have left them behind on this earth. With his usual alacrity of description and disguise, Russo takes cues from those who he actually knows to create a world to which we can all cozy up --- and out of which we are glad to go once the adventure is over. His Sully is facing a certain decline to match the economic one in Bath, and his adventures moving towards that end are witty and delightful, some of the author’s best writing.

"EVERYBODY’S FOOL reminds us of the most dire aspects of being human --- the life, death and love conundrums that have haunted homo sapiens for millions of years."

This is not to say that the world Russo creates in Bath is a bad one, a forsaken one, like a slum or an abandoned steel mill town. It’s a world where people have tried their best to do what they thought was important in this lifetime and where the foibles of life have been laid upon their tables like dares (What will you do with this situation?). The hardworking people of Bath manage to make lemons out of lemonade (not the Beyoncé kind, the regular kind), and sometimes they even manage to make some alarmingly simple but meaningful meddles into each other’s lives. It is a raucous bunch in Bath, filled with people who speak their minds, plain and angry, and will always tell you the truth, unless you are married to them. Domestic bliss is not part of the plan here in Bath, and so it is those partnerships that most affect the book’s plot.

The police chief is mourning the death of his wife and can’t stop wondering who she was having an affair with before her sudden passing. Everyone else is trying to make him feel better about her death, but he is mourning the lack of knowledge of her life beyond their time together. His sassy assistant helps him realize that he has other things he should be worrying about. Her brother is making her life a circus. And Sully, the main protagonist and master of town ceremonies, is wondering what it’s all about. Everyone is giving everyone else opinions about what they should be doing while ignoring the important aspects of their own lives.

Drama is about obstacles, and there are a lot. Russo keeps his characters jumping with some very comical set pieces and the endless barrage of interior monologues about the right way to do anything. Is the town called Bath because the cast of characters resembles the march of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath and all her stunningly inept and fascinating friends? Methinks Chaucer and his characters would be very interested to meet up with Russo’s merry men (and women) and compare and contrast life experiences. Things haven’t changed much in the human mind since those olden times.

Like John Gardner before him, Russo creates a spot on a map that is replete with confused wrongdoers and the consequences of such wrongdoings. EVERYBODY’S FOOL reminds us of the most dire aspects of being human --- the life, death and love conundrums that have haunted homo sapiens for millions of years. Bath is a town you will feel like you have lived in, and it’s good to see that time hasn’t really changed anything much. Although rather man-centric, it is the women who actually make the drama move forward, whether they are alive or not. The men react and the women act, and the world continues rolling around on its axis, where technology and the entitlement generation have made barely a dent in the goings-on in Bath.

Read EVERYBODY’S FOOL and know that, no matter where it is happening, humans are freaking out about love the same way they have for eons. Not much has changed, and everything has changed, since the 1993 publication of NOBODY’S FOOL, Russo’s first epic about Bath and Sully, and you will enjoy the complications while lazing quietly on a secluded beach somewhere this summer (or at the town pool). Wherever you roam, this is the perfect summertime companion.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on May 11, 2016

Everybody's Fool
by Richard Russo

  • Publication Date: January 24, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0307454827
  • ISBN-13: 9780307454829