Friday, November 9, 2018

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo

Things are about the same in North Bath, a dying Rust Belt city.  There isn't much work and most of the city's young people are moving on.  That leaves a collection of older individuals, whose outlook is backward rather than forward most days.  Chief among them is Donald Sullivan, or Sully as he is known far and wide.  Everyone knows Sully and there are many stories told about him.  He is the type of charismatic person who others revolve around even if it isn't clear from the outside what draws others to him.  Sully has never been rich; he's made his living doing manual labor and he loves nothing more than making fun of the establishment and what others say needs to be done for a successful life.  But change has come to Sully.

The biggest issue in Sully's life these days is that there appears not to be much left of it.  The doctors are watching a heart condition and tell him that without treatment he will be lucky to have a year or two.  This makes changes in him.  He isn't working since one of his elderly neighbors left him her money about a year or so ago.  He isn't making love with his longtime married mistress, Ruth, although he doesn't stay away from her cafe where he has hung out for years.  His best friend, Rub Squeers, a handyman who doesnt' have other friends and is constantly worried that Sully doesn't like him either, now has another reason to worry about his relationship with Sully.  Sully has adopted a dog and named it Rub also.  Now no one is sure who he is talking to or about and that suits Sully's sense of humor just fine.  Then there is Doug Raymer, the town's police chief.  He's never been a friend of Sully's as it's obvious to everyone that Sully has little respect for the law.  But now Doug has his own problems.  His wife died recently in a fall down the stairs in their home and Doug hasn't been the same since.  He isn't sure if she fell or was pushed and finally decides that he needs to see the body again to determine and lay his suspicions to rest.  There is no one in the world who would help with his obsession and need to dig up the body except Sully so Raymer forms a temporary alliance with him.  Will Sully end his days and leave all the characters of North Bath behind?

This novel is a followup to Russo's novel, Nobody's Fool, where Sully and his friends were introduced.  It is a New York Times Notable Book.  Readers of the first novel will be entranced to pick up Sully's story years later and newcomers to Russo's work will be delighted by the irascible yet charming Sully.  Everyone loves him; it's just that no one knows why.  He holds nothing sacred, teases everyone yet his heart of gold peeks through.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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