Everybody's Fool: A novel

by Richard Russo

Hardcover, 2016

Call number




Knopf (2016), Edition: 1st, 496 pages


"A best-selling and beloved author, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters who made Nobody's Fool, his third novel, his first great success. The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is now staring down a VA cardiologist's estimate that he only has a year or two left, and he's busy as hell keeping the news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years... the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren't still best friends. Sully's son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure. Doug Raymer, now Chief of Police and still obsessing over the identity of the man his wife might have been having an affair with before she died in a freak accident. Bath's mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, who also has a pressing wife problems and then there's Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upwards might now come to ruin. Everybody's Fool is filled with humor, heart, hard times, and characters who you can't help but love for all their faults. It is classic Russo and a crowning achievement from one of the greatest storytellers of our time"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member sleahey
Once again Richard Russo brings a community to life through a few characters by describing their foibles and escapades and worries during the period of several days. Sully has been told he only has one or two years to live, the police chief's wife has died while trying to leave him, Sully's former
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lover Ruth and her husband don't get along and their daughter's abuser has just been released from prison, and so it goes. At times hilarious and slapstick, this book could make you weep with the underlying sadness in many people's lives and the evil underpinnings of a few. And Russo makes us care about all of them.
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LibraryThing member novelcommentary
I was delighted to hear that there would be a sequel to Nobody's Fool. I loved that book and always felt that Sully was one of my favorite literary characters. Everybody's Fool just accentuated how much I loved reading about those familiar characters in Bath, New York and solidified Sully as my
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favorite, now 70 year old curmudgeon with a heart of gold. This novel fleshed out the character of Douglas Raymer as well who becomes more interesting after he is struck by lightning and who will forever,in my mind, be associated with garage door openers. Though Miss Beryl People's has passed on, Russo manages to weave her influence on Raymer and Sully into the well plotted story line. I often read reviews where "laugh out loud" is used as a description. This may be the first time I have experienced it personally. Russo has some wonderful characters that find themselves in desperate predicaments, but through it all there is grace or at least justice in how they handle their burden. Highly recommend to all, but do yourself a favor and read Nobody's Fool first. It's not an essential appetizer , but it makes this second course all the better. Mr. Russo - I hope there can be a final installment. Like Updike's Rabbit, I can see the title: A Fool At Rest.
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LibraryThing member jphamilton
You know when you've been somewhere you absolutely loved, and you get a chance to return, life can be so very GOOOOOD. Nobody's Fool was one of my all time favorite books (as well as a fine movie) and this was a splendid follow-up, even if it did take Russo so long to return to the scene.
LibraryThing member librarian1204
The absolute joy in reading a book that you can savor page after page, this is what reading Everybody's Fool gave to me. I read Nobody's Fool many years ago and I wasn't sure I would remember characters, plot, details. I knew I'd remember location because I grew up in a small upstate NY village and
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I know the places and the people .
As soon as I began the book I was right back in Bath only 10 years later. Things have happened to the town and the characters and things have remained the same.
The story covers 48 hours and is so much fun to read. With some John Irving and Carl Hiaasen tossed into the truly great writing of Richard Russo, the reader will cringe and cry and laugh and even find themselves talking to the characters.
And then be so sorry when the book is finished. Finding another book to read after this one will not be easy.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
Any new Russo is cause for celebration, but I always wonder what writers are actually telling us when they return to their old characters: are they out of juice? Or do they miss their old friends like we do? In any case, this visit is so hilariously poignant and perfect that it's easy to slide
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right back onto a barstool in North Bath a/k/a Loserville, upstate NY, hard by the much cooler-stand-in-for-Saratoga-Springs-and-Skidmore town of Schuyler. And I rejoice to rejoin Sully, now 70, with a bad ticker, yet just like Paul Newman, Russo's doppleganger in all of his novels and in my imagination. There's also Ruth, Sully's part-time lover, his faithful and pitiful companion Rub, his faithful and smarter canine companion (also Rub), and the whole gamut of denizens smelling "like stale beer and overmatched urine cakes."

Sully despises Police Chief Raymer, who's got 99+ problems of his own, including a cobra, a brand new second personality, a stigmata, a dead wife, and the alleged butterfly tattoo on officer Charice Bond's ass.

The smooth flow between comedy and tragedy, between loud explosions and internal contemplation, is some of what makes Russo a hero to readers. The rest you can identify on your own when you open your copy. I'm headed for the back catalogue and especially "Nobody's Fool", and maybe even the movie too.
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LibraryThing member bookfest
What a hoot! It starts off with the hapless police chief of a small town in upstate NY fainting at a funeral for a judge (who he hated) and falling face first into the grave. He has recently lost his wife, who was about to leave him for another man. He spends a good deal of the novel trying to find
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out who, making a fool of himself in the process. In the meanwhile, there is a cast of mostly male, mostly ridiculous and sometimes lovable secondary characters to keep you amused with their antics. In spite of the laugh-out-loud humor, the intertwined relationships in this small town are often heartwarming (except for the wife beater).
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
This wonderful book is even better than "Nobody's Fool". I loved how Russo made all of these characters come alive 20 years later. A joy to read.
LibraryThing member Tasker
I remembered how much I enjoyed "That Old Cape Magic" about a fifth of the way into "Everybody's Fool". The characters, humor, dialog and the occasional soul-searching make me want to reread "Nobody's Fool" and then start "Bridge of Sighs" - so many books, so little time.
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo, author; Mark Bramhall, narrator
***This is the sequel to the book “Nobody’s Fool”, but it is easily read as an entertaining standalone. Richard Russo knows how to weave a story and masterfully knit all the parts together in the end. There is just the right
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amount of outright humor coupled with tongue in cheek humor to move the story along, even when it begins to slog along and the pace grows slow as it relates a series of bizarre events taking place in a town called Bath. The events grow more and more convoluted and disastrous with the passing hours, from graves sliding down a hill to being struck by lightening to the escape of a rare, poisonous snake.
The story introduces an abundance of characters that are sometimes a bit difficult to keep track of, but each has a distinct personality that is really well developed. The star of the book is Douglas Raymer, the police chief in Bath. He is the man who is tired of being “everybody’s fool”. He has very little confidence in himself and he regards himself the way most people seem to regard him, as a bit of a village idiot, even though he is the police chief. He reacts too slowly, often overlooking important details. The reader learns that he believed he was lucky to snare his wife, Becka, an aspiring actress, but one day, returning home from work early, he discovers her body at the bottom of the stairs. Apparently, unbeknownst to him, she was planning to leave him. In her rush to pack up, she has tripped and fallen to her death. He is bereft. He cannot understand why she never told him she was unhappy or why he never knew she was. He is consumed by the need to find out who her lover was, and when he finds a garage remote, he develops a plan to do just that. However, he loses the remote while attending the funeral of Barton Flatt, the magistrate, when he passes out and topples into the empty grave while listening to the sermon of Reverend Tunic, which seems to go on and on and on. He is exhausted, hasn't eaten or slept well since Becka's death. Once more, he finds himself to be the object of ridicule. However, after he was struck by lightening, his personality seemed to divide into two people, Raymer and Dougie. Dougie is stronger and his influence changes Raymer’s life.
Charice works at the police station and she and Raymer have an interesting relationship with humorous repartees. She is the twin sister of Jerome, an emotionally fragile young man for whom she feels responsible. Because they are black, there is an interracial component of the story which is handled very matter of factly creating no negative racial impact. It is a perfectly honest and open treatment of the subject which I found exceptional.
Miller also works at the police department, but he is not quite trusted by Raymer. He has read the manual and memorized it, and so he follows all the rules, but often doesn’t know how to bend them. He is very literal.
Another character is Ruth, the owner of Hatties, the local eatery. Ruth and Zach are married, but they are not intimate. She has carried on, fairly openly, with Donald (Sully) Solomon for years. Her daughter Janey is married to Roy Purdy an absolute deadbeat of a man. He is violent, has no compunction about committing any crimes, theft, assault, and even murder. He has recently been released from prison and has taken up with a local dull witted, very heavy-set woman, Cora, who adores him and does his bidding. His ex wife Janey has a restraining order against him which he ignores. He continues to commit terrible acts of violence. Ruth doesn’t believe that her husband Zach does appropriate work to earn money since he hoards all sorts of other people’s junk to resell it. It drives her crazy as the junk keeps piling up filling up more and more of their space. Soon he has sheds to store the stuff as well.
Gus Moynihan is the mayor. He rescued his wife, Alice, from Kurt, a low-life who manipulates and blackmails people to get what he wants. He did not know what he was getting into, but he has watched Alice lose her touch with reality over the years, after a brief period of sanity, and she will soon have to be committed to an institution for care. She keeps escaping from the house and frightens the neighbors as she carries on conversations on her “cell phone”, which is actually the handset of a pink telephone. She was a friend of Becka, the chief’s wife.
Sully is probably the only friend of Rub, a very insecure man who has a vicious stammer which disappears when he repeats what Sully says. He is devoted to Sully and dependent upon him for company and work. Bootsie is married to Rub. Theirs is a fairly emotionless marriage too. Sully named his dog Rub, which the actual Rub finds insulting, especially since he often refers to both the dog and himself as dummy. Sully has a son Peter who lives with him. When Sully’s fortune changed and he came into money, he drew away from Rub somewhat, and Rub is grief stricken, often shedding many tears over the loss of their close friendship. Sully, at 70, has discovered that he is not well. His heart is weak. He doesn’t expect to live very much longer. His ex-wife is Vera who is confined to a nursing home, having descended into a state of madness. Gert operates the local watering hole, the Horse. Sully often goes there for a drink with Rub. Gert is married to a gruff woman named Birdie.
Carl Roebuck is the rich town scoundrel. He is involved in construction and part of the reason for the sliding graves, a malodorous stink in town and a wall collapsing on Roy Purdy while he was driving by the cemetery. Carl has also discovered that he is not well. He has had prostate surgery and is obsessed with his ability to perform or rather his inability to perform sexually. All of the mishaps are bankrupting him so he is completely stressed out. Most of the town people were not too unhappy to hear about Roy's mishap, believing it is payback for his brutality or for Carl's financial crisis that they believe is well deserved as well.
Then there is Boogie Woogie, another simple-minded man, who is duped into watching someone’s contraband which turns out to be illegal weapons, reptiles and money. That con man is William Smith, aka who knows?
Mr. Hines is an elderly, gentle black man who often dispenses advice and information to Raymer. From his vantage point he observes the goings on in the town.
So you see, each character is really a bit of a fool in some way. Each incident that occurs is truly extraordinary as well. One of the events would have tested the skill of a police officer, but piling on like they did, he would have to be a superhero to handle them all. Raymer believes he is unfit for his position and wants to quit. Still, he remains to take care of the town as best he can during this time.
So, in this small town of Bath, life is rather unusual with almost everyone having some sort of a significant problem to deal with, and all of these problems seem to come to a head over a period of about two days, but it seems like much longer! There is a touch of the mystical to the story which makes it even more interesting.
There are many surprises in store for the reader in what starts out as a story that plods along as small town life does, but accelerates as each strange event takes place. We readers are allowed to watch as each of the characters is forced to confront their own reality and “come of age”. Some do it more successfully than others. Mark Bramwell, the reader, interprets the personalities so that each character comes through pretty clearly for an audio with so many.
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LibraryThing member MitchChabraja
Everybody's Fool is like returning to visit old friends who you haven't seen in quiet awhile. Sully and Rub return from Nobody's Fool older and more nuanced. Russo has matured in passing years and it shows in the way he fleshes out characters, particularly those who are despicable. Their is an
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empathy and kindness in his understanding of human nature and all its faults.
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LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
Everybody's Fool: A novel by Richard Russo has been critically well received. I have read several of his other books and quite liked them, but I couldn't get into Everybody's Fool. I will try it again at another time. Time can make a difference.
LibraryThing member rglossne
I admit it; I never read 'Nobody's Fool,' but I loved the Paul Newman movie and so the fictional town of Bath and its quirky inhabitants are known to me. You don't need even that much familiarity to enjoy this novel, though. It begins, auspiciously enough, in the town cemetery at the very boring
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burial of a judge, and follows our hero the police chief, Sully, his former lover Ruth, among others, through a very eventful Memorial Day weekend. Russo's affection and respect for the inhabitants of dying Bath NY is clear, and make this a charming read.
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LibraryThing member rmckeown
Richard Russo has penned another novel which adds to the ten excellent books in his portfolio. His latest, Everybody’s Fool, is a sequel to Nobody’s Fool. For this novel he returns to the town Old Bath in upstate New York. Lots of familiar characters have aged since then – some gracefully,
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others not so much – and of course, the competition with the nearby town of Schuyler Springs continues, even though Old Bath is lagging further and further behind. Sully, Miss Beryl, the English teacher, Clive, Carl, Rub, Clarice, and Bootsie are all welcome parts of his eleventh novel.

Russo is a novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and teacher. He was born in Johnstown, NY in 1949. Nobody’s Fool has made its way to the big screen starring Paul Newman, Bruce Willis, and Jessica Tandy, which garnered two Oscar nominations and a half-dozen other awards. I suspect Everybody’s Fool might follow that same path considering a glowing review from The Houston Chronicle. My favorite of his novels is Straight Man, and I would surely love to see that come to film.

One of the more interesting characters is Sully. He served, and was wounded, in World War II. Russo writes, “…he hadn’t been sure then and still wasn’t now, even after the VA diagnosis. Had he gotten off easy? During the war he’d somehow managed to be standing in the exact right place while more talented men and better soldiers happened to be standing in the exact wrong one. Often, that was right next to Sully. For a while there on Omaha Beach there’d been a new, utterly lethal lottery every few seconds. Through diligence and judgment and skill you could improve your odds of survival, but not by much. All the way to Berlin, the calculus of pure dumb luck had ruled, Sully its undeniable beneficiary. // But that had been war. When the shooting finally stopped and the world returned to something like sanity and he again had the leisure to reflect, things felt different” (58). The boom which followed the end of the war never quite made it to Old Bath. Corrupt contractors, con men, and criminals all contributed to the towns decline.

Another of the interesting characters is Chief of Police Raymer. He has recently lost his wife to cancer, and he wallows in self-pity all the while obsessing over a garage door remote he found in his wife’s car. Despite threats from the Mayor, he jeopardizes his job by trying to locate the matching garage. He is convinced his wife planned on leaving him. Russo writes, “Raymer recognized Rub Squeers, Sully’s sidekick, sitting in the small patch of shade […]. Something about his posture suggested that he was weeping. Could he be? Was he, too remembering a loved one buried nearby? Was he too, yearning for a new life, a new line of work? Maybe he’d like to swap jobs, Raymer thought, because digging graves, compared with law enforcement, would be both peaceful and rewarding. The dead were past being troubled by the world’s injustice. Nor did they resist order. You could lay them out on a grid by the thousands without a single complaint. Try that on the living and see where it got you” (67). I do not want to give the impression this novel is morbid. Plenty of humorous moments occur, along with some suspense, while Raymer tries to track down an ex-convict bent on revenge with a hit list.

I read Nobody’s Fool in the 90s, and found Everybody’s Fool even better. I think it might be interesting to re-read these two novels one after the other for a more complete picture of Richard Russo’s outstanding talent as a novelist. 5 Stars.

--Jim, 10/9/16
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LibraryThing member addunn3
Take off about 10 years after nobody's fool. I bit slower, but finally picks up steam at the end.
LibraryThing member VashonJim
Sully and his cast of fools is back for your reading pleasure, and it's as if "Nobody's Fool" every stopped. Russo has a deft comedic touch even as he lays bare the human condition. This book is every bit the equal of his Pulitzer Prize winner.
LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Richard Russo is simply a great writer. I have read most of his novels and they are always entertaining, great page turners, and educational as they look at small town upstate New York and the people that live there. This novel is a sequel to "Nobody's Fool".I did not read that because I had seen
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the movie with Paul Newman. No need to have read that to enjoy this book. It stands on its' own. Quirky characters with great narratives and insights. It covers a few days in the town of North Bath in upstate New York. It is more character driven than plot driven. If you have never read any Richard Russo than you are missing out on one of our great writers. I have loved every novel of his and this one is among his best.
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LibraryThing member JoniMFisher
Oddly funny and moving story

Oh, the humanity! From the bad stench, and unstable cemetery to the lowlife criminals, the small town of Bath is packed with memorable characters trying to stay one step ahead of disasters.
LibraryThing member Alphawoman
I'm so happy that I have another book to read about these wonderful characters.

I read from 11pm until 4am! Could nor pur it down.

I tried reading Empire Falls years ago and couldn't get into it. Definitely will try it again.
LibraryThing member hardlyhardy
A decade or so after Richard Russo's “Nobody's Fool” ends, his “Everybody's Fool” (2016) begins. Sequels don't come any better.

If the title character in the earlier novel was Sully, an aging working man who discovers his place in the world is more important to more people than he ever
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realized, the title character this time has several contenders, for there are many fools here, but "everybody's fool" would seem to best describe Doug Raymer. the incompetent young police officer in the first book who by now has become the incompetent chief of police. He campaigned for the office with the slogan "We're not happy until you're not happy," yet was chosen anyway, suggesting perhaps that everybody's a fool in Bath, N.Y.

That the police department operates with any efficiency at all is due to Charice, his young, black dispatcher, on whom Raymer has a crush even as he still mourns for Becka, his wife who died in a fall down a flight of stairs while hurrying to run away with another man. His only clue to the identity of that man is a garage-door opener. Finding which door that device opens distracts the chief from his duties, even as those duties escalate with a series of crimes in normally placid Bath. One of those crimes, digging up a judge's grave in the middle of the night, is committed by Raymer himself, with the help of Sully and Carl Roebuck, the playboy builder whose business hangs by a thread.

Sully now has a serious heart problem and is given just a year or two to live, at most. Other characters, some of them reprising roles from the earlier novel, include Rub Squeers, a simple-minded man who only wishes to be Sully's best friend; Jerome, Charice's hot-shot brother who turns out to have even bigger problems than Raymer; Ruth, the woman who operates the local diner and whose not-so-secret affair with Sully is now on hold; Zack, her seemingly worthless husband who may actually be worth more than she realizes; and Roy Purdy, their son-in-law, who constantly updates his grudge list of those upon whom he plans violent revenge.

Russo keeps his story moving spritely, humor and pathos alternating and sometimes striking the heart at the same time. These novels are as pleasurable as any one is likely to find. You'd be a fool not to read them both, preferably in order.
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LibraryThing member tsmom1219
3.5 stars. Although the character studies are interesting, I'd have liked a little less internal dialog and a little more external. I could have also done without the snakes. That being said, it's extremely well written and evocative. Definitely worth reading.
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
Despite feeling that the book was too long (maybe what I mean is "too heavy to hold comfortably for very long"?) I really enjoyed this novel. Lots of extremely quirky-but-real characters, some sympathetic, some wicked, some truly likeable; many story lines tangled together but not confusing;
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several laugh-out-loud moments (very welcome just now); wonderful dialog and farcical situations. Couldn't help picturing Paul Newman and Bruce Willis in the roles of Sully and Carl (which they played in Nobody's Fool years ago), and that didn't hurt either.
Review written in 2016
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LibraryThing member nogomu
20-plus years later, this writer has managed to write a book that is either as good as, or even better than, the first. I believe that is unprecedented. How did he combine his character-driven masterpiece with this combo character/plot driven follow up? I'm at a loss. Every sentence was joyful.
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It's like a Harry Potter book long in the making happened just for me. I loved every moment. Truly great.
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LibraryThing member LyndaInOregon
Follow-on to "Nobody's Fool", in which Sully and the other residents of Upper Bath deal with the vicissitudes of life and the oddities of the people in their world. Center stage this time is police chief Doug Raymer, whose monumental Bad Day includes falling into an open grave, being struck by
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lightning, capturing a bad guy armed with a deadly snake, figuring out a murder, and -- eventually -- letting go of his obsession with his late wife.
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LibraryThing member JoniMFisher
Oddly funny and moving story

Oh, the humanity! From the bad stench, and unstable cemetery to the lowlife criminals, the small town of Bath is packed with memorable characters trying to stay one step ahead of disasters.




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