Everybody’s Fool

By Richard Russo

Knopf

5/5 stars

Richard Russo is one of America’s finest novelists. If he’s not as famous outside his homeland as some of his peers that is simply one more reason to seek out his funny, sprawling and humane reports on small-town life. All these elements are present in his masterpiece, Nobody’s Fool, which followed the erratic, chaotic adventures of Donald “Sully” Sullivan, a ne’er-do-well odd-job man, his upwardly mobile academic son and a small community of eccentrics.

Russo has now produced a sequel, which is every bit as fabulous as the original. Sully is the centre once again, now up on his luck rather than down, except that his heart might give out at any moment. He decides to hold this information back from his loved ones – long-time on-off girlfriend Ruth, needy best friend Rub and sometime employer Carl Roebuck. Very nearly stealing the show is police chief Doug Raymer, a comic fool given new depth and dimensions by death and infidelity. The main joy is in the conversations. “How often do you think about sex?” Roebuck asks Sully. “Not as often as I think about murder,” Sully admits. Roebuck is convinced he is a sex addict. “It’s a medical condition.” “What you are,” Sully assures him, “is an anatomical description.” Sheer, unadulterated joy.