Master storyteller Richard Russo takes a welcome trip back to the washed-up town of North Bath, New York, and its colorful inhabitants in Everybody’s Fool.
Russo introduced readers to the town back in 1993 with his exceptional book, Nobody’s Fool. The star of that story is the irascible Donald “Sully’’ Sullivan, who is so likable despite his personal shortcomings. Ten years later in the story, Russo visits Sully, Rub, Ruth, Carl and Raymer to see how they are faring. Sully’s arch-enemy, Raymer, is the center of attention in this sequel. Raymer, who was an insecure cop in Nobody’s Fool, now is the police chief. He is haunted by the recent accidental death of his wife Becka, who was leaving him when she died. Raymer becomes obsessed with a garage door opener he finds in her car, convinced it will lead him to her lover. He feels like he has become “everyone’s fool’’, and constantly questions his ability to be police chief. He can never live down his campaign slogans with the typo: We’re not happy until you’re not happy.”
The irreverent Sully, facing deteriorating health, realizes he no longer is a cocky young man. Ruth, Sully’s former lover, worries about her daughter’s abusive ex-husband showing up in town. The woeful, stuttering Rub keeps wondering if he really is Sully’s best friend. Carl, who ran his father’s construction company into the ground, is broke in more ways than one. Russo even brings back Miss Beryl, the town’s long-time teacher who died at the end of Nobody’s Fool, with tender flashbacks recalled by Sully, who was Miss Beryl’s favorite.
Russo introduces two new characters, Charice and her twin brother Jerome. The competent and sassy Charice works for Raymer in the police station and provides him no end of grief. Jerome, a cop in the neighboring rival town of Schuler Springs, keeps showing up to give Raymer headaches. Russo with his trademark humor adds fun plot twists along the way to add his touch of comedy to his suffering characters, including grave robbing, an escaped cobra, and lightning strikes.
Nobody’s Fool was made into a terrific movie starring the wonderful Paul Newman as Sully and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Raymer. When I read Everybody’s Fool, Sully and Raymer in my imagination still looked like Newman and Hoffman. It’s such a shame the great actors won’t be able to recreate their roles in Everybody’s Fool. If you haven’t seen the movie with its first-rate cast, including Bruce Willis as Carl and the late Jessica Tandy as Miss Beryl, make sure to check it out. It’s always available on Hoopla if you have a Cook Library card, as well as on DVD.
Everybody’s Fool, which covers just a few days in the life of North Bath, is a book for readers who enjoy character-driven fiction. Reading Nobody’s Fool first will definitely enhance your reading pleasure of Everybody’s Fool, but it’s not necessary. Despite the town’s difficult times, Russo infuses the story with humor, love and hope. Also make sure to check out his other terrific books, including Empire Falls, which won the Pulitzer Prize for literature, and was made into an HBO series also starring Paul Newman.