Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Whore's Child by Richard Russo

When I think of Richard Russo, I think of upper New York and towns that are struggling after the factories have shut down.  He writes about everyday folks, folks who just go out and work to put food on the table and who are happy to have the occasional treat.  After reading this anthology, I need to rethink Russo and acknowledge his deft way of drawing a character with no words wasted.  This volume has seven stories and each is a gem.

In my favorite story, The Mysteries Of Linwood Hart, a nine year old boy deals with his father moving out.  He tries to understand what broke up the marriage, why his father doesn't get along with his own family and why his mother is determined to change him.  Linwood is playing baseball for the first year and his coach also seems to be auditioning for the job of stepfather. 

The title story is about a former nun who is in a creative writing class.  Her first sentences in her stories are killer openings and the class soon realizes they don't know her or the inner workings of the faith that she has served at all.  In another story, a man visits the artist who his wife had a long term affair with after her death.  In Joy Ride, another child goes with his mother on an extended road trip when she apparently decides that her life as a wife and mother just isn't working out.

Each story is a gem that explores the inner life of ordinary people and helps the reader acknowledge the special qualities that each of us has.  Russo is at times laugh out loud funny and sometimes poignant or even outright sad.  But at the end of each story, the reader will be wiser about human nature.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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