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The risk pool
Richard Russo
Adult Fiction RUSSO

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Brilliantly fulfilling the promise of his first novel, Mohawk , Russo sets this richly satisfying narrative in the same blue-collar milieu of that fictional upstate New York town. The narrator, Ned Hall, or ``Sam Hall's boy,'' as he is always identified by his father's pals, recalls his growing-up years in a community whose seasons are identified as ``Fourth of July, Mohawk Fair, Eat the Bird and Winter.'' The unconventional upbringing that contributes to his pessimistic view of life is the result of the ongoing war between his parents. Sam Hall, as feckless, inept and irresponsible a charmer as has ever been conjured to fictional life, abandons his wife and son for the best part of 12 years while he becomes a barfly, petty thief and gambler, a generally disreputable citizen whose status in the lowest depths of the insurance risk pool typifies his harum-scarum existence. He claims adolescent Ned after his mother's nervous breakdown, however, and the two years father and son spend together are the essence of this chronicle of complex parental and filial relationships. Under his father's tutelege Ned learns to lie and cheat, steal and play poolindeed, to remake himself in his father's imageand it is not until two decades later that he realizes he has also learned about the redemptive power of love. Russo writes in a prose style as seductive as spring: the novel has a vigorous pace, sharply witty dialogue and a liberal helping of hilarious scenes. The book's depiction of a community fallen on hard times, its vividly delineated characters, and its sensitive portrayal of a boy bewildered by the conditions of his life and learning to adapt to hardship, neglect and a curious kind of off-hand love all pack an emotional wallop. This is a novel whose intelligence will appeal to discriminating readers, whose chronicling of picaresque misadventures will vastly entertain, and whose compassionate evocation of lower middle-class people struggling to find dignity and happiness will strike home with universal truths. In short, it's as good a novel as we are likely to get this year. BOMC and QPBC alternates. (Nov . ) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

A story of not-so-successful folk in a decaying town in New York as seen through the eyes of Ned Hall, better known as ``Sam's son.'' Sam was once an average citizen who grew up, married, and went off to fight in World War II but returned a drifter. Leaving his wife and small son at home, he would haunt the bars and pool halls and hobnob with his cronies. Now and then he'd appear from nowhere to take Ned with him. When Ned's mother, Jenny, trips over the edge, Ned goes to live with Sam in a dilapidated loft above the town's one department store and shares his father's roguish life. Ned's 20-year story is filled with wonderfully drawn characters and hilarious adventures but the subtext is one of sadness and near desperation. Highly recommended. Marion Hanscom, SUNY at Binghamton Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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more titles about

main characters Ned Hall
Introspective; mother is mentally ill; spent his life trying to win his father's affection.

Sam Hall
Hellraiser; irresponsible; Ned's father; abandoned his wife and son; spends his time in bars; petty thief.

Jenny Hall
Ned's mother.

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