The Risk Pool by Richard Russo
New York : Random House, 1988. First Edition. Hardcover. 479 pages. $19.95 dust jacket. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
Richard Russo, author of the acclaimed Mohawk, returns to his mythical upstate New York town for this grand, old-fashioned novel about a roguish father and his introspective son. Sparkling with wit and heartbreaking in its intimate portrayal of a family torn asunder; The Risk Tbol is a journey through the true facts of life-honor; ambition, conflict, deceit and ultimately redemption.
The focus is on Sam Hall, a hell-raising, gambling sport who returns from the battlefields of World War II only to abandon his nervous wife, Jenny, and newborn baby, Ned. But a few years later; when the irresponsible Sam pops up and shanghais the boy-managing to give him the world's worst case of poison ivy in the process—the real war between the Halls begins. Soon, Ned is shuttling back and forth between Sam's ramshackle "apartment" atop Mohawk's one and only department store (convenient only for shoplifting and its proximity to the town bookie) and Jenny's gloomy, dream-haunted world. No one wins this emotional tug of war; certainly not the impressionable Ned, whose own fantasies shatter as he learns the darker secrets of a romance he can never fulfill.
For two decades, Ned strives to resolve the strange and sorry influences that threaten to ruin his adult life. But as he struggles to win his father's affection while avoiding his sins, he's faced with an extraordinary dilemma: How does a son please a father whose disregard for all rules of safety, decorum, and common sense have landed him at the very bottom of the auto insurance risk pool? How does a son win his father's love without entering the risk pool himself?
In this dazzling novel, Richard Russo reexamines the American family in a manner never done before.
RICHARD RUSSO did his graduate studies at the University of Arizona and now teaches fiction writing at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he lives with his wife, Barbara, and their two daughters. His first novel, Mohawk, was published in 1986. He is currently at work on a new novel.
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