Author Spotlight: Richard Russo
Russo is a true master of character development, blending a deep insight of human nature with observations that are often hilarious and always heartfelt.
Mohawk, NY has been dying ever since it lost its leather manufacturing industry. But its inhabitants live on, mostly in the past, pining away for bygone dreams and loves that never came to fruition.
Sam Hall abandoned his son Ned for over a decade while he pursued a rogue's life of gambling and thieving. Now Ned has moved in with his estranged father and is confirming the old cliché "the acorn does not fall far from the tree".
North Bath, NY has seen better days, and so has one of its residents, Donald "Sully" Sullivan. He's unemployed, suffering from an arthritic knee, and on the verge of losing his home and his family, all while dealing with the lingering memory of an abusive father.
William Henry Devereaux Jr. doesn't take things too seriously. When he applies this approach to his job as chair of a divided English department at West Central Pennsylvania University, hilarious situations are the result. This is probably Russo's funniest novel, though Devereaux's soul-searching throughout leads to some touchingly deep moments.
Russo's Pulitzer Prize winner is about Miles Roby, owner of the Empire Grill in a deteriorating New England mill town called Empire Falls. When Roby, a natural "nice guy", isn't taking abuse from the locals and dealing with family drama, he's reflecting on the chances he's missed to make something of himself in the world outside of Empire Falls.
In his only short story collection, Russo's mastery of character development and his brilliant observations of life's peculiarities are put to use to create a fascinating blend of stories. In particular, the title story, about a nun's reflections on her life and prostitute mother, is stunningly insightful.
Bridge of Sighs chronicles the lives of Lou Lynch, his wife Sarah, and their mutual friend Bobby Marconi. Ultimately, it is a story about the difficult responsibilities of adulthood, the truths we often hide from ourselves and those we love, and the missed connections that can lead to a lifetime of longing.
Updated: January 5, 2010