By Richard Russo
Publisher: Random House Inc
Pub. Date: September 2007
The blurb from the publisher:
Louis Charles Lynch (also known as Lucy) is sixty years old and has lived in Thomaston, New York, his entire life. He and Sarah, his wife of forty years, are about to embark on a vacation to Italy. Lucy’s oldest friend, once a rival for his wife’s affection, leads a life in Venice far removed from Thomaston. Perhaps for this reason Lucy is writing the story of his town, his family, and his own life that makes up this rich and mesmerizing novel, interspersed with that of the native son who left so long ago and has never looked back.
The Short of It:
A story about love and acceptance and the need for normalcy. This one moves at a much slower pace but has its moments. Those that enjoy books about small town life will enjoy this one.
The Rest of It:
This was my book club’s pick for this month. As a whole, most of the group enjoyed it but felt that it was much too long. At the time of the meeting, I had not finished it and thought that it was “okay” but not great. However, now that I have finished it, I find myself appreciating the story a bit more.
In a nutshell, Lou C. Lynch (Lucy) is a young boy growing up in a small town. He is surrounded by a loving, supportive family but one that has its own challenges for sure. For one, his dad (also named Lou) is a simple guy with simple values. Lucy’s mother, Tessa, is often frustrated with her husband’s “pie in the sky” view of life and is determined that her son not follow in his footsteps.
Although I get Tessa’s frustration, I also get Lou’s eternal optimism. The ability to see good in all situations, and mean it…that’s not a trait that a lot of people share. So when Lucy befriends Bobby Marconi, a rebel of sorts with his own problems, we see his parents react to that friendship in different ways. One wants to protect, yet the other sees nothing but good. Sort of a hard situation when a kid is in the middle of that.
As Lucy gets older, and falls in love with Sarah, it begins to dawn on him that Sarah may not want to spend her life in that town—that she may go away to college and not come back. Add to that the dynamic of Lucy’s friend Bobby, and what you have are three very good friends trying to figure out who they are.
Have you ever chosen comfort over risk? The characters in this novel are constantly questioning whether it’s better to love, or be loved. Is the comfort of family worth more than heading out into the unknown to find out who you really are? I’m not sure I know. I do get the “what if” factor. When you are presented with two choices, and you make your choice, sometimes down the line you ask yourself, “What if…?” To me, this is the main theme of the book. Things change, yet other things remain the same so you ask yourself, “What if?”
Although I agree with my book club that the book should have been trimmed down a bit before publication, I did find myself swept up with the internal conflict within each character. As for the slower pace, I felt that the pace matched that of a small town. It seemed appropriate to me. That said, I was a surprised by the ending. It felt a bit choppy but overall I enjoyed the book.
Russo’s new book, That Old Cape Magic just came out and I may pick it up. From what I’ve read it also focuses on family dynamics and takes place on the Cape, how bad can that be?
Have you read a Russo book? If so, what did you think of it?