By Richard Russo
Published August 2008 by Knopf, Doubleday Publishing Group
Lou C. Lynch has spent his entire life in the small town of Thomaston, New York. But now his wife, Sarah, has convinced him to take a trip to Italy to see Lucy's (Lou C.--get it?!) former best friend and rival for Sarah's affections. The idea of this trip causes Lucy to take a trip down memory lane and he begins writing his memoir.
Over 600 pages of memoir about a guy who has never left his small town doesn't sound like much of a basis for a book. And it might not be in lessor hands. But this is Richard Russo we're talking about here. There are a lot of stories in this book--Luce's, Luce's parents, Sarah and Bobby. It's also the story of growing up in a small town, dealing with bullies, racism, alcoholism, spousal abuse, and infidelity.
What I liked about this one--Russo made Thomaston come alive. I could visualize the town; the dynamics between the citizens were true to life. I really liked the relationship between Lucy's parents and the store that the family liked felt like stores that I have been in. Russo switchs voices from the voice of young Lucy to old Lucy, school-aged Bobby to young Bobby in a way that only Russo could make work. He introduces a tremendous number of characters and few of them feel one-dimensional.
What I didn't like: I felt like a few parts could have been cut from the story without hurting it. There is a long part that tells about Sarah's visits to stay with her mother in the summers. It seemed to be there just to set up some of the latter part of the book, but I didn't think that part was necessary either. There was also a part of the book that dealt with Lucy and Sarah's high school years when Lucy and Bobby had Sarah's father for a teacher. The story also swings back and forth into Bobby's time in Venice and those parts did seem a little disjointed from the rest of the book although they ultimately tied back in to the rest of the story.
Overall, I liked this story; it was beautifully written. I just wish it had been 150 pages shorter.