Synopses & Reviews
After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.
Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville — once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a charming, feckless father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), with everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon.
A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations in achieving that goal — beautifully recounted here — were to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both. Fraught with the timeless dynamic of going home again, encompassing hopes and fears and the relentless tides of familial and individual complications, this story is arresting, comic, heartbreaking, and truly beautiful, an immediate classic.
"The Gloversville, N.Y., native and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (Empire Falls) fashions a gracious memoir about his tenacious mother, a fiercely independent GE employee who nonetheless relied on her only son to manage her long life. Separated from her gambler husband, Russo's mother, Jean, resolved that she and her son were a 'team,' occupying the top floor of Russo's grandparents' modest house in a once-thriving factory town where 'nine out of ten dress gloves in the United States were manufactured,' the author notes proudly. Yet its heyday had long passed, cheap-made goods had invaded, and the town by the late 1960s was depressed and hollowed out; Russo's intrepid, if erratic mother encouraged Russo to break out of the 'dimwitted ethos of the ugly little mill town' and attend college at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. Except she came, too, on a hilariously delineated road trip in the 1960 Ford Galaxie Russo purchased and nicknamed the Gray Death. Despite the promise of a new job and new life, however, Jean was never content; many years later when Russo and his wife and increasing family moved from Tucson back to the East Coast as his job as an English professor and writer dictated, his mother had to be resettled nearby, too, in a long era of what Russo eventually saw as enabling her obsessive-compulsive disorder. Russo's memoir is heavy on logistical detail people moving around, houses packed and unpacked and by turns rueful and funny, emotionally opaque and narratively rich." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A gorgeously nuanced memoir about Russo's mother and his own lifelong tour of duty spent — lovingly and exhaustedly — looking out for her....Russo is the Bruce Springsteen of novelists...in a paragraph or even a phrase, he can summon up a whole world, and the world he writes most poignantly about is that of the industrial white working class." Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
"Moving and darkly funny...Russo mines grace from his gritty hometown [and] the greatest charm of this memoir lies in the absences of self-pity and pretension in his take on his own history." Amy Finnerty, The Wall Street Journal
"Heartfelt and generous." Tricia Springstubb, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"One of the most honest, moving American memoirs in years....Russo's straightforward writing style is even more effective in Elsewhere [and his] intellectual and emotional honesty are remarkable." Michael Schaub, NPR.org
"Rich and layered...an honest book about a universal subject: those familial bonds that only get trickier with time." Kevin Canfield, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Russo conjures the incredible bond between single mother and only child in a way that makes his story particularly powerful." Nicholas Mancusi, The Daily Beast
"Russo brings the same clear-eyed humanism that marks his fiction to this by turns funny and moving portrait of his mother and her never-ending quest to escape the provincial confines of their hometown." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
"An affecting yet never saccharine glimpse of the relationship among place, family and fiction." Kirkus
About the Author
RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven novels and The Whore's Child, a collection of stories. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody's Fool, was adapted to film.