Richard Russo's "Everybody's Fool"
I promised an update on Richard Russo's latest visit to upstate New York's fictional North Bath, the sluggish, economically fatigued town first featured in "Nobody's Fool." (The book became a movie starring Paul Newman as Donald Sullivan and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Doug Raymer, a match-up we won't see again.)
Sully's still around, secretly sweating out a terminal diagnosis and mostly managing to ignore the stirrings of conscience stemming from a love affair—ended, but lingering emotionally. Russo's focus this time, however, is on the self-conscious, reluctant lawman Raymer. Self-doubt punctuates his days and, tormented over his wife's death as she was about to leave him, obsessed with learning the identity of her lover, he feels unequal to his job. Raymer is still much annoyed by the town's n'er-do-well (but now financially secure) Sully, but it's Sully who has the shrewd cunning and strength of character Raymer needs to move ahead with his life. Sully is still magic for readers; it's his satiric insight and well-protected core that elude Raymer, causing resentment to fester inside the chief's anxious mind.
Beautifully written, the book heightens in intensity with the introduction of a dangerous sociopath, Roy Purdy, released from prison and determined to destroy those he blames for his bad luck, including Sully, his ex-wife and her mother (Sully's former girlfriend Ruth). In a novel filled with characters whose humor, forgiveness and innate honor grant them dignity, Roy Purdy stands out for his evil.
It's a wonderful story, and Russo is more witty than ever, often using Sully to voice his funniest remarks, while Raymer voices the failure we all fear. One cannot dislike Sully or fail to pity Raymer, rooting for their eventual triumph.
I loved it.