Nobody’s Fool is one of the rare examples of a movie I fell in love with before the book. Paul Newman – enough said. Thankfully, the book was even better and introduced me to the fantastic writing of Richard Russo.
Everybody’s Fool is the sequel, written 23 years after the first book, although plot-wise, the sequel takes place about ten years later. Which might make your head spin a bit.
The good: nearly all our favorite characters are back, Miss Beryl is now deceased, and the town is planning to honor her by naming a school for her. In this book we get Carl, Rub, and a little bit of Sully’s son Peter and his grandson Will. The book expands on the character of Ruth, who runs the diner and used to sleep with Sully. Ruth’s daughter Janie is trying to divorce her abusive ex-husband who just got out of jail.
Our main character is Doug Raymer, who was a young and stupid policeman in the first book, and now he’s the Chief of Police. Doug is the surprising character in the book, someone I sympathized with and grew to care about. In a lot of ways, Doug is Sully’s opposite. In Sully we see someone who does the right thing but often without trying. Doug, on the other hand, is overly self-conscious, full of doubt, tries hard to do the right thing and usually fails. Sully convinced him years ago that he was the world’s worst cop, but he stays on the job even though he agrees with Sully’s assessment. Sully is charming and well-liked, while only one or two people see Doug for who he is. Sully seems to operate by instinct where Doug overthinks everything and has no idea what he wants. It’s no wonder I saw more of myself in Doug.
I loved this book, both for bringing back some of my favorite characters and for not letting me down. The writing and story is just as rich as in the first book, although Russo may be guilty of narrating through a few too many characters (we are also introduced to the mayor and his wife, one of Raymer’s lead detectives and her brother). At its heart, this book is about Sully and Doug. I think he also spends too much time in the head of Janie’s ex-husband, a place I didn’t want to be. (Interestingly, I felt exactly the same way about Eventide, which makes me wonder how much my feelings about one book influence the next book I read. But that’s a question for another time.)
This book is funny and warm and thoughtful, touching on a number of serious issues.
One small thing: I have a pet peeve about books where a bazillion things happen in a day or two. I find myself trying to figure out how someone could have gotten to so many places in one day, and when do they sleep and eat, and that’s distracting. Maybe it’s because I only get a few things done in a day.
Can this book stand on its own without the first book? Russo spends a lot of time recalling the key plot points (and quite a few minor plot points) from the first book. So maybe you could just read this one, but why would you? Sully is one of my favorite literary and movie characters. I’m just glad Russo gave us more.