Reviews for Elsewhere : A Memoir
Booklist Reviews 2012 September #2
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Russo brings the same clear-eyed humanism that marks his fiction to this by turns funny and moving portrait of his high-strung mother and her never-ending quest to escape the provincial confines of their hometown of Gloversville, New York. All of her life, she clung to the notion that she was an independent woman, despite the fact that she couldn't drive, lived upstairs from her parents, and readily accepted their money to keep her household afloat. She finally escaped her deteriorating hometown, which went bust when the local tannery shut down, by moving to Arizona with her 18-year-old son when he left for college and following him across the country right up until her death. His comical litany of her long list of anxieties, from the smell of cooking oil to her fruitless quest for the perfect apartment, is a testament to his forbearance but also to his ability to make her such a vivid presence in these pages. Part of what makes this such a profound tribute to her is precisely because he sees her so clearly, flaws and all. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Prizewinning author Richard Russo's many fans will be lining up for his first nonfiction work, which has generated considerable prepublication buzz. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #2
The celebrated best-selling novelist recalls his late mother's powerful, often frustrating influence on his life and work. Fans of Russo's fiction (That Old Cape Magic, 2009, etc.) likely know that the model for his novels' working-class Northeast settings is Gloversville, N.Y., a factory town that fell on hard times in the 1960s. The author escaped his hometown when he went to college, but not without some company: His mother joined him as they drove to Arizona, and she'd rarely be far from him in the decades that followed. Russo describes how his life decisions were often limited by the need to accommodate his mother's particular needs and, later, debilitating illness: One of the book's most powerful chapters describes the author's mother as her dementia begins to set in, fussing over a clock as if the device itself had the power to control time. (What his extended family and estranged father called "nerves" was likely a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.) Though she routinely made her son's life more difficult, this book isn't borne out of bitterness, yet he doesn't place his mother in soft focus either. What Russo strives to do is place his mother's life in a social, cultural and personal context. He explores how her options were limited as a single mother in the '60s, as a product of a manufacturing culture that collapsed before her eyes, and as a woman who needed to define herself through other men. That Russo found the time and emotional space to write novels is somewhat miraculous given her demands, but he acknowledges he couldn't have written them without her. He inherited her sense of place as well as her compulsive personality, and this book contains much of the grace and flinty humor of his fiction. An affecting yet never saccharine glimpse of the relationship among place, family and fiction. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 June #1
One can imagine the pleasures of reading a memoir by the Pulitzer Prize--winning author of Empire Falls, here recounts his upbringing in fading 1950s Gloversville, NY, much like the locales that make his fiction so memorable. But what should make this work truly arresting is his account of his mother, who wanted something better for herself and her son. [Page 80]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 October #3
The Gloversville, N.Y., native and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (Empire Falls) fashions a gracious memoir about his tenacious mother, a fiercely independent GE employee who nonetheless relied on her only son to manage her long life. Separated from her gambler husband, Russo's mother, Jean, resolved that she and her son were a "team," occupying the top floor of Russo's grandparents' modest house in a once-thriving factory town where "nine out of ten dress gloves in the United States were manufactured," the author notes proudly. Yet its heyday had long passed, cheap-made goods had invaded, and the town by the late 1960s was depressed and hollowed out; Russo's intrepid, if erratic mother encouraged Russo to break out of the "dimwitted ethos of the ugly little mill town" and attend college at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. Except she came, too, on a hilariously delineated road trip in the 1960 Ford Galaxie Russo purchased and nicknamed the Gray Death. Despite the promise of a new job and new life, however, Jean was never content; many years later when Russo and his wife and increasing family moved from Tucson back to the East Coast as his job as an English professor and writer dictated, his mother had to be resettled nearby, too, in a long era of what Russo eventually saw as enabling her obsessive-compulsive disorder. Russo's memoir is heavy on logistical detail--people moving around, houses packed and unpacked--and by turns rueful and funny, emotionally opaque and narratively rich. (Nov.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC