Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors. His ability to take you on a meandering tale, and keep you engaged, is unparalleled. He is a true master storyteller and one of a kind. I read his later novels first but this, his second book, holds up against all the rest.
Though I was never a real fan of the series Russo’s writing always reminds me of Seinfeld, the show about nothing. There are never any grand plot twists: his novels are about the simplicity of humans and the complications of trying to make your way.
This is a story about the stagnancy of living in a blue collar town, and the chance, or lack thereof, to break out of the mold and shadow of your parents. Ned Hall is the protagonist who is coming of age as he is raised by his neurotic and troubled mother and his father, the ne’er do well husband she is estranged from. We see Ned throughout his fathers entire life and watch as he navigates through life like an unmoored and unmanned ship: lethargically without any real direction.
As with all of Russo’s novels, this one is filled with a rich tapestry of characters. It is funny, poignant, and a true joy to read.