Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Risk Pool

by Richard Russo

I have a lot of respect for Richard Russo; I think he is a truly excellent writer. This is the second novel of his I've read (Empire Falls is the other) and I plan to read more of him.

He reminds me of a modern-day Faulkner, except that the families in Russo don't completely collapse into ruin, and his novels take place in Main and not down south. Russo is a fantastic storyteller (not so convoluted as Faulkner). His plot is neat and connected, but not so much so as to be annoying (like Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed). His characters are believable and have complete lives. The relationships between characters are very well crafted as well.

Really, there is nothing not to like about this book. Ok, maybe it's a little long and I initially lost interest once Ned was grown up and no longer living in Mohawk, but he returned and things picked up again.

There are some similarities between The Risk Pool and Empire Falls which I find interesting: the Catholic Church and its priests playing important roles, the local diner being the key meeting place and only constant business, and the old-as-the-town-itself family being the only ones to have any money in the run-down town trying to hold on to its dignity (the family and the town).

The Risk Pool is an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story and isn't intimidated by its 479 pages.

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