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Empire Falls

16 ratings

Summary

Richard Russo - from his first novel, Mohawk, to his most recent, Straight Man - has demonstrated a peerless affinity for the human tragicomedy, and with this stunning new novel he extends even further his claims on the small-town, blue-collar heart of the country.  Dexter County, Maine, and specifically the town of Empire Falls, has seen better days, and for decades, in fact, only a succession from bad to worse. One by one, its logging and textile enterprises have gone belly-up, and the once vast holdings of the Whiting clan (presided over by the last scion’s widow) now mostly amount to decrepit real estate. The working classes, meanwhile, continue to eke out whatever meager promise isn’t already boarded up.  Miles Roby gazes over this ruined kingdom from the Empire Grill, an opportunity of his youth that has become the albatross of his daily and future life. Called back from college and set to work by family obligations - his mother ailing, his father a loose cannon - Miles never left home again. Even so, his own obligations are manifold: a pending divorce; a troubled younger brother; and, not least, a peculiar partnership in the failing grill with none other than Mrs. Whiting. All of these, though, are offset by his daughter, Tick, whom he guides gently and proudly through the tribulations of adolescence.  A decent man encircled by history and dreams, by echoing churches and abandoned mills, by the comforts and feuds provided by lifelong friends and neighbors, Miles is also a patient, knowing guide to the rich, hardscrabble nature of Empire Falls: fathers and sons and daughters, living and dead, rich and poor alike. Shot through with the mysteries of generations and the shattering visitations of the nation at large, it is a social novel of panoramic ambition, yet at the same time achingly personal. In the end, Empire Falls reveals our worst and best instincts, both our most appalling nightmares and our simplest hopes, with all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling. 

©2001 Richard Russo (P)2011 Random House Audio

Length: 20 hrs and 26 mins
Available on Audible
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Chances Are...

7 ratings

Summary

“[Russo’s] first novel in ten years hits the ball out of the park.... You’ll lap up this gripping, wise, and wonderful summer treat.” (The Boston Globe) “A cascade of charm.... Russo is an undeniably endearing writer, and chances are this story will draw you back to the most consequential moments in your own life.” (The Washington Post) One beautiful September day, three men in their late 60s convene on Martha's Vineyard, friends ever since meeting in college in the '60s. They couldn't have been more different then or even today - Lincoln's a commercial real estate broker, Teddy a tiny-press publisher, and Mickey is a musician beyond his rockin' age. But each man holds his own secrets, in addition to the monumental mystery that none of them has ever stopped puzzling over since a Memorial Day weekend right here on the Vineyard in 1971. Now, 45 years later, three lives and that of a significant other are put on display while the distant past confounds the present in a relentless squall of surprise and discovery. Shot through with Russo's trademark comedy and humanity, Chances Are... introduces a new level of suspense and menace that will quicken the listener's heartbeat throughout this absorbing saga. 

©2019 Richard Russo (P)2019 Random House Audio

Narrator: Fred Sanders
Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
Available on Audible
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Straight Man

6 ratings

Summary

In this uproarious novel, Richard Russo performs his characteristic high-wire walk between hilarity and heartbreak. Russo's protagonist is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt. Devereaux's reluctance is partly rooted in his character - he is a born anarchist - and partly in the fact that his department is more savagely divided than the Balkans. In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if a curvaceous adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television. All this while coming to terms with his philandering father, the dereliction of his youthful promise, and the ominous failure of certain vital body functions. In short, Straight Man is classic Russo - side-splitting and true-to-life, witty, compassionate, and impossible to put down.

©1997 Richard Russo (P)2003 Random House, Inc.

Narrator: Sam Freed
Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins
Available on Audible
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Nobody's Fool

6 ratings

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.

Narrator: Ron McLarty
Length: 24 hrs and 53 mins
Available on Audible
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Bridge of Sighs

1 rating

Summary

Six years after the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Richard Russo returns with a novel that expands even further his widely heralded achievement. Louis Charles ("Lucy") Lynch has spent all of his 60 years in upstate Thomaston, New York, married to the same woman, Sarah, for 40 of them, with their son now a grown man. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though he's had plenty of reasons not to be - chief among them his mother, still indomitably alive. Yet it was her shrewdness, combined with that Lynch optimism, that had propelled them years ago to the right side of the tracks and created an "empire" of convenience stores about to be passed on to the next generation. Lucy and Sarah are also preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy, where his oldest friend, a renowned painter, has exiled himself far from anything they'd known in childhood. In fact, the exact nature of their friendship is one of the many mysteries Lucy hopes to untangle in the "history" he's writing of his hometown and family. And with his story interspersed with that of Noonan, the native son who'd fled so long ago, the destinies building up around both of them (and Sarah, too) are relentless, constantly surprising, and utterly revealing.

©2007 Richard Russo (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Narrator: Arthur Morey
Length: 26 hrs and 58 mins
Available on Audible
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The Destiny Thief

1 rating

Summary

"It turns out that Russo the nonfiction writer is a lot like Russo the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. He is affably disagreeable, wry, idiosyncratic, vulnerably bighearted, a craftsman of lubricated sentences." (Jay Fielden, New York Times Book Review) A master of the novel, short story, and memoir, the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Everybody's Fool now gives us his very first collection of personal essays, ranging throughout writing and reading and living. In these nine essays, Richard Russo provides insight into his life as a writer, teacher, friend, and reader. From a commencement speech he gave at Colby College, to the story of how an oddly placed toilet made him reevaluate the purpose of humor in art and life, to a comprehensive analysis of Mark Twain's value, to his harrowing journey accompanying a dear friend as she pursued gender-reassignment surgery, The Destiny Thief reflects the broad interests and experiences of one of America's most beloved authors. Warm, funny, wise, and poignant, the essays included here traverse Russo's writing life, expanding our understanding of who he is and how his singular, incredibly generous mind works. An utter joy to listen to, they give deep insight into the creative process from the prospective of one of our greatest writers.

©2018 Richard Russo (P)2018 Random House Audio

Narrator: Richard Russo
Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins
Available on Audible
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That Old Cape Magic

1 rating

Summary

That Old Cape Magic is a novel of deep introspection and every family feeling imaginable, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled one, his daughter's new life and, finally, what it was he thought he wanted and what in fact he has. The storytelling is flawless throughout, moments of great comedy and even hilarity alternating with others of rueful understanding and heart-stopping sadness, and its ending is at once surprising, uplifting and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written.

©2009 Richard Russo (P)2009 Random House

Narrator: Arthur Morey
Length: 9 hrs and 7 mins
Available on Audible
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Everybody's Fool

1 rating

Summary

Richard Russo, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath in upstate New York and the characters who made Nobody's Fool (1993) a "confident, assured novel" according to the San Francisco Chronicle back then. "Simple as family love, yet nearly as complicated." Or, as The Boston Globe put it, "a big, rambunctious novel with endless riffs and unstoppable human hopefulness". The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is staring down a VA cardiologist's estimate that he has only a year or two left, and it's hard work trying to keep this news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years...the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren't still best friends...Sully's son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure (and now a regretful one). We also enjoy the company of Doug Raymer, the chief of police who's obsessing primarily over the identity of the man his wife might've been about to run off with before dying in a freak accident...Bath's mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, whose wife problems are, if anything, even more pressing...and then there's Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upward might now come to ruin. And finally there's Charice Bond - a light at the end of the tunnel that is Chief Raymer's office - as well as her brother, Jerome, who might well be the train barreling into the station. Everybody's Fool is filled with humor, heart, hard times, and people you can't help but love, possibly because their various faults make them so stridently human. This is classic Russo - and a crowning achievement from one of the greatest storytellers of our time.

©2016 Richard Russo (P)2016 Random House Audio

Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Length: 18 hrs and 53 mins
Available on Audible
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The Whore's Child and Other Stories

Summary

To this irresistible debut collection of short stories, Richard Russo brings the same bittersweet wit, deep knowledge of human nature, and spellbinding narrative gifts that distinguish his best-selling novels. His themes are the imperfect bargains of marriage; the discoveries and disillusionments of childhood; the unwinnable battles men and women insist on fighting with the past. A cynical Hollywood moviemaker confronts his dead wife’s lover and abruptly realizes the depth of his own passion. As his parents’ marriage disintegrates, a precocious fifth-grader distracts himself with meditations on baseball, spaghetti, and his place in the universe. And in the title story, an elderly nun enters a college creative-writing class and plays havoc with its tidy notions of fact and fiction. The Whore’s Child is further proof that Russo is one of the finest writers we have, unsparingly truthful yet hugely compassionate.

©2003 Richard Russo (P)2011 Random House Audio

Available on Audible
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The Risk Pool

Summary

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Russo's skillful use of dialogue perfectly suits the audio medium. 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.

Narrator: Sean Mangan
Length: 19 hrs and 51 mins
Available on Audible
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Sh*tshow

Summary

A Vintage Shorts Short Story original. David and Ellie didn’t realize how much they have missed their friends, two other couples who had moved out of their modest neighborhood in a desert city for the comforts of the suburbs, until the day of Donald Trump’s election. Separated also from their daughter who lived hours away in California, they were in a funk. But, when Ellie discovers a repellant offering floating in the small Jacuzzi in their backyard, David is blindsided. Little does he know this is but the first in a chain of grisly events that would play out in their lives with devastating consequences. In this darkly humorous, incisive, and absorbing political parable, written with the remarkable humanity he’s beloved for with countless fans, Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo probes how deeply, yet imperceptibly, fissures can form amongst friends, neighbors, and families. 

©2019 Richard Russo (P)2019 Random House Audio

Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
Available on Audible
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Selected Shorts

Summary

Strong female protagonists grace this collection of passionate stories dedicated to mothers, daughters, wives, and lovers. A woman splurges on an irresistible coat that becomes her; a feisty teenager who has grown up as her activist mother's poster-child realizes the strength of her own convictions; and a young peasant woman saved from drowning is suddenly drawn to her rescuer and hopeful about her life. Feature stories include Kim Edwards' "The Story of My Life", read by Holly Hunter; Teolinda Gersào's "The Red Fox Fur Coat", translated by Margaret Jull Costa and read by Kathleen Chalfant; Allan Gurganus' "It Had Wings", read by Marian Seldes; David Haynes' "Taking Mis Kezee to the Polls", read by Michael Genet; D. H. Lawrence's "The Horse Dealer's Daughter", read by Jon DeVries; and Richard Russo's "The Whores' Club", read by Harold Gould.

©2008 Symphony Space, Inc. (P)2008 Symphony Space, Inc.

Available on Audible
Cover art for Mohawk

Mohawk

Summary

Originally published in 1986 in the Vintage Contemporaries paperback series - and reissued now in audiobook - Richard Russo’s Mohawk remains today as it was described then: A first novel with all the assurance of a mature writer at the peak of form and ambition, Mohawk is set in upstate New York and chronicles more than a dozen lives in a leather town, long after the tanneries have started closing down. Ranging over three generations - and clustered mainly in two clans, the Grouses and the Gaffneys - these remarkably various lives share only the common human dilemmas and the awesome physical and emotional presence of Mohawk itself. For this is a town like Winesburg, Ohio, or Our Town, in our time, that encompasses a plethora of characters, events, and mysteries. At once honestly tragic and sharply, genuinely funny, Mohawk captures life, then affirms it.

©1986 Richard Russo (P)2019 Random House Audio

Narrator: Amanda Carlin
Length: 13 hrs and 14 mins
Available on Audible
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Elsewhere

Summary

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

Narrator: Richard Russo
Length: 7 hrs and 32 mins
Available on Audible