I am pre-disposed to like Richard Russo. Despite a recent slump, I think this book demonstrates his return to form. Though darker than NOBODY’S FOOL, the Russo trademarks are all present. Humor. Small-town blues. Relationships. Remarkable characterization. Optimism. (“‘I also think it’s possible for us to be better people tomorrow than we are today.’ He had no idea, of course, whether any of these things were true, in whole or in part. Still, what possible good could come of believing otherwise?”)It’s hard to read Sully and not think of Paul Newman, but I think that’s okay because even Russo said Newman got the character – based on Russo’s own father – just right.

Russo does take some risks – with race, for example. While they don’t always come off successfully, it is nice to see an old dog trying new tricks. Has Russo been influenced too much by his work with movies? Well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but maybe a bit.