From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Russo brings the same clear-eyed humanism that marks his fiction to this by turns funny and moving portrait of his high-strung mother and her never-ending quest to escape the provincial confines of their hometown of Gloversville, New York. All of her life, she clung to the notion that she was an independent woman, despite the fact that she couldn't drive, lived upstairs from her parents, and readily accepted their money to keep her household afloat. She finally escaped her deteriorating hometown, which went bust when the local tannery shut down, by moving to Arizona with her 18-year-old son when he left for college and following him across the country right up until her death. His comical litany of her long list of anxieties, from the smell of cooking oil to her fruitless quest for the perfect apartment, is a testament to his forbearance but also to his ability to make her such a vivid presence in these pages. Part of what makes this such a profound tribute to her is precisely because he sees her so clearly, flaws and all. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Prizewinning author Richard Russo's many fans will be lining up for his first nonfiction work, which has generated considerable prepublication buzz.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The Gloversville, N.Y., native and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (Empire Falls) fashions a gracious memoir about his tenacious mother, a fiercely independent GE employee who nonetheless relied on her only son to manage her long life. Separated from her gambler husband, Russo's mother, Jean, resolved that she and her son were a "team," occupying the top floor of Russo's grandparents' modest house in a once-thriving factory town where "nine out of ten dress gloves in the United States were manufactured," the author notes proudly. Yet its heyday had long passed, cheap-made goods had invaded, and the town by the late 1960s was depressed and hollowed out; Russo's intrepid, if erratic mother encouraged Russo to break out of the "dimwitted ethos of the ugly little mill town" and attend college at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. Except she came, too, on a hilariously delineated road trip in the 1960 Ford Galaxie Russo purchased and nicknamed the Gray Death. Despite the promise of a new job and new life, however, Jean was never content; many years later when Russo and his wife and increasing family moved from Tucson back to the East Coast as his job as an English professor and writer dictated, his mother had to be resettled nearby, too, in a long era of what Russo eventually saw as enabling her obsessive-compulsive disorder. Russo's memoir is heavy on logistical detail-people moving around, houses packed and unpacked-and by turns rueful and funny, emotionally opaque and narratively rich. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This memoir focuses on Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Russo's (Empire Falls) life as the only child of an emotionally ill mother. Single after a brief marriage to his father, Jean worked at General Electric in Schenectady, NY, not far from the Gloversville flat she rented in her parents' house, despite her pride in being independent. Prone to emotional outbursts followed by calm periods, Russo's mother thought happiness would be available if she could just be elsewhere. Finally, she quit her job to move to Arizona with Russo when he goes there to college; it was then that Russo acknowledged her illness. Even after he married, had children, and had established a career, his mother's demands continued to shape the family dynamics. Verdict Without sentimentality, Russo succeeds in writing a poignant and humorous account of coping with his beautiful, charming, yet destructive mother. Recommended for readers interested in Russo's life and his upstate New York roots, as well as anyone with a mentally ill loved one.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.