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Publisher's Summary

In this slyly funny and moving novel, Richard Russo follows the unexpected operation of grace in a deadbeat, upstate New York town, and in the lives of the unluckiest of its citizens. Divorced from his own wife and carrying on halfheartedly with another man's, saddled with a bum knee and friends who make enemies redundant, sixty-year-old Sully now has one new problem to cope with: a long-estranged son who is in imminent danger of following in his father's footsteps. With its sly and uproarious humor and a heart that embraces humanity's follies as well as its triumphs, Nobody's Fool is storytelling at its most generous. Don't miss this great novel of impressive literary finesse shot through with wit and compassion.
©1993 Richard Russo (P)2003 Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Russo is a master craftsman....The blue-collar heartache at the center of [his] fiction has the sheen of Dickens but the epic levity of John Irving....Nobody's Fool is a big, rambunctious novel with endless riffs and unstoppable human hopefulness." (The Boston Globe) "...confident, assured novel sweeps the reader up in the daily life of its characters." (San Francisco Chronicle) "A delight." (Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Marsha
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 04-27-05

Wonderful Book Fabulous Narrator

What is it like to be a 60-year Old man who has always avoided responsibility? Sully is that person in the book Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. A person who everybody loves and hates, to varying degrees, and who deserves both, Sully finds that all of those responsibilities come to haunt him, along with thoughts of his abusive father, who Sully is slowly becoming as he spirals from the fear of responsibility, from the pain of his wrecked body, and from a reliance on alcohol and pain killers.

For a man who has always avoided responsibility, it is a difficult time. He is needed by his son Peter, who he has never shown any interest in, his ex-wife Vera, who hates him, and a grandson who he can't help loving. There are also the needs of his best friend Rub, his elderly landlady, his long-time girlfriend and her family,and various other characters who walk through his life and who he helps, even while doling out servings of his acid-tongued wit indiscriminately, unsparingly, and to great and horrible effect.

The narrator of this book displays amazing skill. There are many characters, all well written, in this book, and he brings life to all of them, adding to the author's fine description.

A lot happens in this book, but it is not written on a grand scale. It is a story of one man, and one town and by the end you love and hate them both, and wish that the story would go on forever.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kate
  • Chicago, IL, USA
  • 10-08-03

Russo is a master at blending humor and pathos

This is a book about quirky characters and the intertwining of their lives in a small town. You just know these are real people. Don't expect lots of action here but if you love a writer who is a real craftsman with words, one who clearly loves his characters and makes you love them too then this book is for you. Funny, sad, warm and enchanting. I'll listen to it over and over.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A truly great book!

This is one of the finest books I've read in many years. After reading Empire Falls, I picked up all of Russo's books, and Nobody's Fool is by far the most accomplished. The portrayals of both the main character, a 60-something guy whose life has passed him by, and the minor characters, are brilliant. Nothing much happens in this book, whose story covers just a few days, but it is a heart-warming, humanist story.

Listening to this audiobook version brought back all the subtleties in Russo's writing. While it took me a while to get used to the reader, in the end I feel he has the perfect voice for this story. This book is long, and slow, and you just want it to continue for a longer time. But it's about real life, and life doesn't last forever.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Eileen
  • Tinley Park, IL, United States
  • 12-09-04

Russo is a master storyteller

I read several of the reviews here and wasn't sure if I was willing to commit to such a long book about "nothing". I can tell you now that I'm very glad I DID commit to it.

I had no expectations for this book other than wanting to hear a good story. This IS a good story. The characters are well-defined and very easy to picture in your mind. The story itself is basically about people in a small town and what their daily ups and downs are. No, it's NOT boring! You will be drawn into the lives of these people, and I promise you that you will laugh and cry and become completely sucked into this book.

Donald "Sully" Sullivan is the main character and his interactions with various people - from old Hattie at the diner to his ex-wife's new husband, Ralph, to his narcissistic boss, Carl and his hilariously stupid, best friend, Rub - Sully is man who can be gentle or sarcastic or loving or downright hilarious. I don't know why another reader said they didn't like Sully. I sure do. I suspect you will as well.

If you are looking for something that simply provides a good story in every sense of the word, this is the book for you. It's true, there is no murder mystery or crime (other than petty theft, illegal parking and one domestic issue), there isn't a lot of blood and gore, there isn't even really any sex. To be honest, it's something special to come across a gem like this without all that stuff.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Surprised by other bad reviews...

I have to say I'm surprised by others bad reviews, but that's what makes us all different I guess.:) I loved this book. Much more than Empire Falls (which earned him a Pulitzer). His character development and caring for them was brilliant. That fact that Sully doesn't change is what makes it wonderful. Things changed around Sully. No Disney ending here, with I've been wrong, now I'm better off for it stuff. Just plain, simple life. And I love his explanation of the "stupid streak" coming on. You know it's wrong, you know it's going to screw things up, but you just can't help yourself sometimes.:)

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Tanya
  • Southeastern PA, US
  • 10-11-03

An amazing tale

First, I need to say this is not an "action" story. It's about ordinary people living in a small, depressed town in NY State. The author has created such wonderful characters, quirky and loveable and frustrating in their humanity. And totally believable. It's a long listen, and I found it took a couple of hours to get to know the characters enough to care. But I was richly rewarded for sticking in there and found myself unable to stop listening later in the tale. The interactions of the characters is frequently entertaining, the story poignant, sad, and uplifting at the same time - an amazing glimpse of human foibles, love, forgiveness, and redemption. I highly recommend it and will certainly try another of this authors titles.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary
  • aptos, CA, USA
  • 08-02-08

Nobody's Fool

Excellent story and excellent reader. I truly was captivated by this story and the telling. Ron McClarty has so many voices and nuances just right for the telling of this type of story. I will "read" anything he "reads".

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • Anchorage, AK, USA
  • 09-29-03

Russo is a genious.

Russo captures what it is to be human through his look at the denizens of this quirky small town. The book is funny and sad and made me want to move into this town and go drink coffee with these people.

It sounds cliche but seriously: You'll laugh, you'll cry and it will become part of you.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Darrolyn
  • minneapolis, MN, USA
  • 10-26-03

sad to see it end....absolutely wonderful story!!

Russo is a master! I finished this book a week ago and am still thinking about the characters. This is rare for me. Often, too often in fact, I finish a book and a week later can't remember it at all. This well written book has no wasted words and no repetition. I fell in love with the characters and would like to pack up and move to this town and get to know them even better. I was disappointed when the story ended because I didn't want to leave this town or the people. The narrator is just perfect. i can still hear him saying...."Sully, Sully, Sully". It's not a thriller or adventure story, but it's more a book you want to read when you want to lay back and watch, listen to, learn from and be entertained by's hard for me to put into's about nothing(if you call life nothing) and it's about will have to read it to see what I mean and I think you will agree with me that it is definitely worth the time spent.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • James
  • Richmond, VA, USA
  • 09-30-09

Are you serious? He's the main character?

How was I going to possibly relate to or care about Sully, a 60 year old, unmotivated, self-focused boor and his small town - seemingly so different and removed from my life - for a 24 hour "read"? I was told in one these reviews that Russo writes like Wally Lamb, one of my favorites - so I launched in. Not a bad comparison of authors. Russo takes us on a pleasant, meandering journey through the town of North Bath, New York and by the end of the story we get to know the characters of this town intimately, and guess what? I like this blue collar town; it reminds me a lot of my own. And as for Sully; he reminds me alot of me.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • Shirley
  • 11-15-08

Wonderful, masterful and wholly convincing

Wow, this book was absolutely wonderful! It's long, and so it took me an hour or so to get into it, but once it took hold it drew me right in, and by the time I started on the third part I was already regretting the fact that it was eventually going to end.

I've not read any of Richard Russo's books before, but I was blown away by his ability to create entirely sympathetic characters that I soon found myself caring about deeply. The dialogue sparkles, and I can't imagine a better reader for this particular title than Ron McLarty (whom I'd also not encountered before).

I've listened to a lot of books from Audible over the last few years, but this (along with Ender's Game) is right up there with the best I've ever heard. I've already downloaded 2 more of Richard Russo's books, and I hope they'll provide more of the same.

When this recording ended I felt almost bereaved, and that's a feeling I don't often experience at the end of a book these days. Richard Russo is a master of transforming the imagined minutiae of small-town life into something that takes you by the heart and simply doesn't let go. If you enjoy taking a peep into how other people live then rush over to the downloads page and grab it right now.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sharon
  • 09-12-09

A wonderful, charming, book..

I downloaded this one with trepidation, as the description was so far removed from what I would normally buy. But I decided - take a chance, it's really long, so excellent value! I am SO pleased I did. The story does not have a plot per se, but the characterisation and dialogue are just wonderful. I feel like I know the protagonist and his circle of acquaintances intimately, and they are all beautifully drawn. Thoroughly recommended.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-31-15

A Great American Novel

I am feeling slightly bereft because I have just finished listening to one of the best books I have ever come across. Read about the book on Amazon and Goodreads and you will find similar rave reviews. Richard Russo appears to be the best author most people have never heard of. Whilst raving about this book to my friends, many people have asked me what it is about. But if I told them it concerned a few days in the life of a 60 year old misery-guts with a bad leg and that there wasn't a great deal of action then I wouldn't be selling it very well. But this would be missing out that the book also is both highly entertaining and staggeringly good at portraying life, ageing, family dynamics, community, the clumsiness of men, friendship, lust and love.

The writing is so deftly simple but wise - it is a joy to read and every few lines you come across a wry observation or profound reflection. You get to know a large cast of small town characters and although they are all flawed and quirky, you get to like them all and care about what happens to them. It is deeply compassionate and brilliantly funny. I found myself exploding with uncontrollable belly-laughs on a number of occasions. I also felt quite tearful at times. It's a huge book - over 24 hours long in audio format. My only regret is that it wasn't twice as long. Now I don't know what to do with myself because I am afraid that the next few books I read will inevitably be disappointing. My only antidote to this may be to read another Russo book!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • hfffoman
  • 01-21-15

Sheer delight

What about Ron McLarty’s performance did you like?

Absolutely excellent reading. The dialogue is perfect. His ability to put multidimensional expression into a single utterance such as "ok" is a pleasure to witness.

Any additional comments?

If you don't know Richard Russo novels you have a treat ahead of you. This is my fourth and, yet again, despite its length, I didn't want it to finish. Sully, the 60-year old hero in this one, is not only a hopeless loser, as are most of Russo's characters, but - I won't spoil it by listing his character flaws but let's say he is not someone most of us would admire in real life. Yet Russo writes with such wit and humanity, I found myself desperately fond of old Sully and all the other no-hopers who do very little but get drunk, smoke, argue and insult each other. That is surely one of the highest achievements of a novel - to take us somewhere we wouldn't want to go and show us the good in it.

The book covers 3 generations with the majority of the attention given to the older end. It is refreshing to see the focus and sympathy given to the unattractive 80 year old Mrs Peoples, and to the younger grandparents whose sex lives Russo does not shrink from describing.

Warning if you don't like 4 letter words and crude references to parts of the anatomy, steer well clear of this.

One final comment: if you like banter and bar talk, I can't think of anyone who gets it so exactly right as Russo. (If you know of anyone else who can match it please let me know).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carol
  • 04-07-13

downtown USA

this book was described as storytelling at its most generous. while I enjoyed the book i found it quite difficult to listen to. the main character was quite engaging but some of the language was difficult and I found the setting hard to relate to. This is a book written by a man and the characterisation of the women felt stereotyped

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Janice
  • 03-02-12

Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo

This book seemed to drag on and on and unfortunately the voice of the reader kept sending me to sleep and didn't keep me interested.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • zomodo
  • 12-06-11


Simply brilliant, I chose this book after getting the 'recommended reads' email. I was not dissappointed. So subtly written, nothing major really happens within the story line but that is the beauty of it. Its about the relationships of the characters and the daily living in a small town. I totally fell in love with Sully, mainly thanks to the excellent narrator. I love my monthly audible credits and this is why, Im even thinking of getting the movie out on DVD. (there's a movie!!). Download this now

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • stylo
  • 07-08-17

Excellent! A funny and moving novel.

Would you consider the audio edition of Nobody's Fool to be better than the print version?

I have not read the printed version

Who was your favorite character and why?

Richard Russo skilfully made me really care for several of his characters especially Sully and Mrs Beryl, but equally Peter, Ruth, Carl and even Rub!

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Too many to pick out just one!

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Again there were several. There is an undercurrent of care and concern throughout the book.

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  • Liam Grimes
  • 12-08-16

Absolutely brilliant!

What made the experience of listening to Nobody's Fool the most enjoyable?

What a fascinating cast of characters. It perfectly captured ( what I imagine is) American small town life.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Sully is now my literary hero. Flawed, damaged, a bully yet so humane.

Which character – as performed by Ron McLarty – was your favourite?

Again Sully

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Well it has so no use speculating.

Any additional comments?

If you are into Audible get this title. It's long but so worthwhile.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-29-16

great story, great characters, great narration.

drove through Europe in a camper van. felt like we were driving through Maine! loved it.