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Small Town Syndrome
The book is 500+ pages so there's plenty to say and a lot of story lines, characters and techniques upon which to comment. It can't all be done here.
While the book is peopled with a large enough cast of characters, the topic du jour is small town America. If you grew up in one, it's likely you'll find people you know within the pages. You'll also find places you know there. And, you'll find attitudes there, too. In fact, you'll finish the book and feel like it was a pretty good book, and you might even wax a bit nostalgic. But when you really start to think about it, you'll also probably experience a bit of depression. Is small town America, from whence came (we believe), our values, really so lacking in substance? Under the veneer, is the underpinning so weak? You'll have to decide that for yourself.
There are the people good and bad, the hangout, the values and the decline, all here, all ready to be judged and valued. It's a book interesting to continue to think about after you've finished it. Especially if you know small town America.
The main characters are several mirrored generations. The parents of the first generation wife (Tessa) aren't thrilled with the husband (Lou). And, did she, however briefly, think the brother-in-law more exciting and suited to her temperament? The father of the second generation (Mr. Berg), wasn't thrilled with the husband (also Lou). Did he, and his daughter as well, think the best friend more exciting and suited to her temperament? In the third generation, the wife certainly will explore her options. Right?
And, of course the book is long enough to give almost every rogue at least one redeeming quality, to complicate and flesh out the characters more than so many books do now.
Move on to the hangout, the values, and the decline of the town. All figure prominently in the pages, provoke thought, and make the book better fodder than many of the books that line shelves in libraries and bookstores.
It drags in places, but it comes together at the end.
I've read all of Russo's books. I graduated from Nathan Littauer Nursing School in 1952 so these people are well known to me. It was 150 pages too long. Where are the editors? Four of the highly publicized,prize winning books that I want to read are over 500 pages in length. Too much of a good thing-daunting! My favorite Russo book is "Straight Man". It was a welcome departure from his usual,barfly/good guy at heart. Does it occur to him sometimes that the reason small-town America is disappearing is because it is peopled by characters like the people in his books.