After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.
Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville, once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a charming, feckless father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), with everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon.
A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations in achieving that goal - beautifully recounted here - were to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both. Fraught with the timeless dynamic of going home again, encompassing hopes and fears and the relentless tides of familial and individual complications, this story is arresting, comic, heartbreaking, and truly beautiful: an immediate classic.
©2012 Richard Russo (P)2012 Random House Audio
I like Russo's fiction. Period. So, I thought I'd give his nonfiction a try. I chose the wrong one. Something about his mother, fine. What's a memoir without mom? But half-way into the book I realized this wasn't as much a memoir as it was a biography of Russo's mother and it wasn't going to change. Russo's mom is--well, tiresome and she stays in character till the bitter end. I felt sorry for Russo but writing this painful non-memoir was probably therapeutic. Also, I generally avoid books read out loud by the author. A good writer doesn't (often) make for a good reader. It seems counterintuitive but my worst listeniing experiences have been with authors as readers. Oh well...back to Russo's fiction, which I highly recommend!
I probably would not listen again because I tend not to re-listen. But I would definitely reread some of the passages. The preface is a lyrical tribute to a town and the craftsman that were dependent on a dying industry. The author also has beautifully captured what it is like to have a difficult parent.
Philip Roth's Patrimony or Mary Karr's memoirs. These are all memoirs of living with a difficult parent--yet in the way that all sad families are different, the stories are very different. All of these authors write very well.
I have not liked Russo's fiction but will now try again. I found his fiction contrived but this memoir demonstrates that truth is stranger than fiction and the human heart contains multitudes. Russo's loving tribute to his difficult mother is a rare & beautiful book.
This book helped me realize that my favorite type of audio book is memoirs read by the author. Russo's book is a forthright, well written/told journey of his life as influenced by his mother, his roots in upstate NY, and in the background, the support and stability of life with his wife and daughters. As happens with individuals who are troubled, his mother's life seems to circle round and round the same issues, but that is reality. I recommend to anyone who has enjoyed Russo's books, heard him speak, is interested in his life.
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