10-17-2007 03:50 PM
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The town of Empire Falls has seen better days. Miles Roby gazes over this ruined kingdom from the Empire Grill. Called back from college and set to work by family obligations, Miles never left home again. And his own obligations are manifold: a pending divorce; a troubled younger brother; a peculiar partnership in the failing grill; and his teenage daughter, Tick. Shot through with the mysteries of generations and the shattering visitations of the nation at large, it is a social novel of panoramic ambition, yet at the same time achingly personal.
William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt, is a born anarchist. In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if a curvaceous adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television. All this while coming to terms with his philandering father, the dereliction of his youthful promise, and the ominous failure of certain vital body functions.
Sixty-year-old Sully is "nobody's fool," except maybe his own. Out of work (undeclared-income work is what he does, when he can), down to his last few bucks, hampered by an arthritic broken knee, Sully is worried that he's started on a run of bad luck. And he has. The banker son of his octogenarian landlady wants him evicted; Sully's estranged son comes home for Thanksgiving only to have his wife split; Sully's own high-strung ex-wife seems headed for a nervous breakdown; and his longtime lover is blaming him for her daughter's winding up in the hospital with a busted jaw. But Sully's biggest problem is the memory of his own abusive father, a ghost who haunts his every day. (Library Journal)
The Risk Pool
Set in Mohawk, New York, Ned Hall is doing his best to grow up, even though neither of his estranged parents can properly be called adult. His father, Sam, cultivates bad habits so assiduously that he is stuck at the bottom of his auto insurance risk pool. His mother, Jenny, is slowly going crazy from resentment at a husband who refuses either to stay or to stay away. Russo gives us a book that overflows with outsized characters and outlandish predicaments and whose vision of family is at once irreverent and unexpectedly moving.
A first novel with all the assurance of a mature writer at the peak of form and ambition, Mohawk is set in upstate New York and chronicles over a dozen lives in a leather town, long after the tanneries have started closing down. Ranging over three generations and clustered mainly in two clans -- the Grouses and the Gaffneys -- these remarkably various lives share only the common human dilemmas and the awesome physical and emotional presence of Mohawk itself.