A wonderfully fun and perceptive novel in the traditions of Thornton Wilder and Anne Tyler, The Risk Pool is set in Mohawk, New York, where Ned Hall is doing his best to grow up, even though neither of his estranged parents can properly be called an adult. Richard Russo gives us a book that overflows with outsized characters and outlandish predicaments and whose vision of family is at once irreverent and unexpectedly moving.
©1986 Richard Russo; (P)2005 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd.
I'm a retired woman living in a coastal rural area on the mid-north coast of NSW. There's a lot of work to do around the property and listening to a good book while doing it is just 'the best'.
Thoroughly engaging story full of well-portrayed, fascinating characters and lots of gentle humour. Sean Mangan's narration suited this story perfectly. I enjoyed every minute of it.
One of the best, without a doubt.
All the characters were beautifully evoked by both the author and narrator.
I'd already listened to a previous reading by Sean Mangan and tracked him down to see what other books he'd narrated. The Risk Pool was one, and I just took a chance on it.
I simply did not want this book to finish. It was something I listened to day and night, I would save it up for long walks or car journeys and relish the experience.
Can't recommend the story or storytelling more highly. What a wonderful family saga. All the characters of the small town are superbly drawn. I can't pin it down but there was something special in the way the author describes events. What looks as though it's going to be in chronological order, in fact comes with many surprises as the author plays with our concepts of time. The chronology does get filled out eventually (the story had to end some time) but in many absorbing and imaginative ways ...really very satisfying.
This is Russo's second novel. I have previously read Empire Falls and Nobody's Fool. For the first third of the book I was thinking that this isn't quite so good - a slowly evolving and meandering story about a boy growing up with his mother and then his father. Not quite as involving as the later books but I kept going because Russo's writing exerts a magical effortless spell. This is deceptively simple and beautiful writing that somehow packs depth and portrays a vivid sense of community. Plus, you can expect to experience belly laughs at regular intervals. In the second third I was aware that the pace was still slow but I couldn't leave it because I wanted to keep spending time in the company of these people. I keep wanting to use the word magical because you really do enter a wholly different world! In the final third everything kicks off and the narrative drive tightens. You keep listening because you need to know what is happening next. The comedy is joined by tragedy, and it moved me to tears towards the end.
Russo writes big old fashioned books that are so easy to follow and with a great cast of wonderful characters. It's story telling at it's absolute best. The drinking scenes and scatological conversations are fiercely cruel and funny. Russo perfectly captures the life of the bar room. The ending is nicely drawn and satisfying.
I am curious about why this writer is not more widely recognised. After a life of enjoying Steinbeck, Kesey, Updike and Kerouac, Richard Russo has now become my new favourite author. I want to tell everyone to read him - he's the best author that you've probably never heard of.
Reading this book is an immersion into a family and a local community - it's fun, moving and always believable. I now feel the same sense of loss after finishing this novel that I experienced coming to the end of Nobody's Fool. Thank goodness I have more to read. Straight Man here I come!
The dialogue is so accurate and entertaining, and brilliantly read, I could have listened on and on beyond the 16 CDs the file filled. Although the dialogue is most noticeable, the rest of the narrative is beautifully written too. I put this in the must listen category - unless you are offended by the use of the f word every other line.
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