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Elsewhere: A memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 30, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307959538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307959539
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

“It’s rare for a novelist to write candidly about the real behind the imagined. About a lifetime of work and the very person who inspired it. Yet that is precisely what Richard Russo has done in his memoir.... Redemption is always the prize in a Russo story. Nowhere do we see that more clearly than in Elsewhere, a brave little book in which a writer spins deprivation into advantage, suffering into wisdom, and a broken mother into a muse. Wanting him to be anywhere but Gloversville, Jean Russo did everything she could to make her son leave. And then, unable to feel whole anywhere outside it, she eventually brought him home.” —Marie Arana, The Washington Post
 
“Intimate and powerful...an impeccably told tale.” —Julia M. Klein, Chicago Tribune

“A gorgeously nuanced memoir about Russo’s mother and his own lifelong tour of duty spent—lovingly and exhaustedly—looking out for her. . . . Russo is the Bruce Springsteen of novelists . . . in a paragraph or even a phrase, he can summon up a whole world, and the world he writes most poignantly about is that of the industrial white working class.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
 
“Filled with insights, by turn tender and tough, about human fidelity, frailty, forbearance, and fortitude.” —Glenn C. Altschuler, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Moving and darkly funny. . . Russo mines grace from his gritty hometown [and] the greatest charm of this memoir lies in the absences of self-pity and pretension in his take on his own history.” —Amy Finnerty, The Wall Street Journal
 
“Heartfelt and generous.” —Tricia Springstubb, Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
“One of the most honest, moving American memoirs in years... Russo's straightforward writing style is even more effective in Elsewhere [and his] intellectual and emotional honesty are remarkable.” —Michael Schaub, NPR.org
 
“Rich and layered... an honest book about a universal subject: those familial bonds that only get trickier with time.” —Kevin Canfield, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Russo conjures the incredible bond between single mother and only child in a way that makes his story particularly powerful.” —Nicholas Mancusi, The Daily Beast
 
“Russo brings the same clear-eyed humanism that marks his fiction to this by turns funny and moving portrait of his mother and her never-ending quest to escape the provincial confines of their hometown.” —Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
 
“An affecting yet never saccharine glimpse of the relationship among place, family and fiction.” —Kirkus

More About the Author

Rick Russo is the author of six previous novels and THE WHORE'S CHILD, a collection of stories. In 2002, he received the Pulitzer Prize for EMPIRE FALLS. He lives with his wife in Camden, Maine, and Boston.
Photo credit Elena Seibert

Customer Reviews

Sensitively written, Russo's memoir is really his mother's story, and how her often-sad life shaped his life and craft.
Johanna Turner
Specifically, the subject matter (by its very nature) isn't easy to take and there is perhaps a bit too much detail-- which contributes to reader fatigue.
Cary B. Barad
I strongly recommend everything Richard Russo has ever written but if you're going to read only one of his books, "Elsewhere" is the one to read.
David Seaman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on November 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
From his Pulitzer Prize-winning EMPIRE FALLS to novels like NOBODY'S FOOL and BRIDGE OF SIGHS, Richard Russo has mined a rich lode of stories based on his childhood in upstate New York's Gloversville. Until now, he's held back from writing about his experiences there in a work of nonfiction. Thanks to an invitation several years ago from Granta to contribute to its "going home" issue, he's finally produced this quietly moving memoir. But as much as it reveals some of the pleasures and pain of Russo's early life, the heart of ELSEWHERE is the story of his loving but often fractious relationship with his mother, Jean.

When the 18-year-old Russo was admitted to the University of Arizona in 1967, Jean took advantage of the opportunity to flee her compulsive gambler husband and the upstairs apartment she shared with her only child in her parents' Gloversville home. Driving a 1960 Ford Galaxie he christened the "Gray Death" (a vehicle that could not go in reverse, in a nice bit of symbolism), Russo and his mother embarked on what turned out to be a death-defying cross-country trek. Jean's quixotic decision to abandon a secure, well-paying job with General Electric in Schenectady, expecting she'd easily land a comparable position with the same employer in Arizona, was emblematic of what Russo calls her "intractable determination that was responsible for her seemingly endless suffering."

Soon their prospects diverged. Richard, with his Ph.D. in English, eventually left academia to become a full-time novelist. When Hollywood discovered his work, he added well-paying screenwriting jobs to his resume.
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67 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Daisy B. on October 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you want an "I did this, then I did that, and I . . . I . . . I" passive-read of a memoir, this book is not for you. Rather, Russo tells the story of himself through the story of the person who was the primary force in his life and continues to be, even after her death: his mother. As when reading a novel, the reader must interpret, draw parallels, and analyze words and actions to understand motivations and the subtext. Not only does the book tell the story about one guy who's a writer from upstate New York; like the best works, it also provides insight into the human condition, the inescapable influence of family, and the lifelong effect larger-than-life "characters" have on the children they raise.
In an era when too often the veracity of memoirs is called into question--just because of the voyeuristic, overblown adventures needed to keep contemporary readers engaged--this memoir is thoroughly original. If you have ever read a novel and wondered how much is the author's actual life and how much is fiction, and how the two influence each other, you will love this book.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have believed for several years now that Richard Russo-- I'm embarrassed to say whose novels I keep buying and have yet to read one of them since life keeps getting in my way-- is the most decent of human beings. I first came to that conclusion when I did read SHE'S NOT THERE by Jennifer Finney Boylan, one of his teaching colleagues at Colby College. Then I heard him read from THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC and my original opinion of him was set in concrete. And as everyone knows, that is not always the case when you actually meet a writer. His decency and kindness seep through in every page of ELSEWHERE as he remembers his mother's life and his taking care of her throughout her many years of undiagnosed obsessive compulsive-disorder. He says in the "Prologue" that he calls this book a memoir because he does not know "what else to call it--a story of intersections: of place and time, of private and public, of linked destinies and flawed devotion. It's more my mother's story than mine, but it's mine, too, because until just a few years ago she was seldom absent from my life."

Mr. Russo was born and grew up in the mill town of Gloversville, New York. If you can write a memoir about a town, then Gloversville is the third subject of this book. It's where the author got his title from: as both he and his mother Jean moved from place to place-- Arizona, Illinois, and finally Maine-- she couldn't wait to get out of Gloversville. Then when she was "elsewhere," she always wanted to move back and did for a short time after she had lost a job in Tucson. When Russo decided in 1967 to go to college in Arizona, she just loaded up their newly-purchased 1960 battleship gray Ford Galaxie and moved with him.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Someone Else TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is more "mom"-oir than memoir. You won't learn much about Rick Russo except as it relates to his mother's inescapable grip on him. Jean Russo was one doozy of a dippy demanding dame. She taught Rick to think of himself and his mother as essentially one person -- "You and me against the world." Even as an adult, he couldn't break free of her hold on him. For over 35 years he catered to her ridiculous demands, which cost him a fortune financially and mentally.

Ever since Rick was a boy, he'd been warned about Mom's "nervous condition." He lived in fear of upsetting her, and she played him like a squeezebox. She never mastered many coping skills, so she compensated by overdeveloping her manipulative muscles.

I couldn't decide which of them was more deserving of a good throttling. Mom was so demanding, and full of unreasonable complaints and expectations. Rick was far too accommodating and quick to back down, thus encouraging her absurd behavior. After she died, he figured out that her "nervous condition" was OCD, and late in the book he takes ownership of his role as her enabler.

Jean Russo didn't display the classic symptoms of OCD -- hand washing and the like. Her obsession was more expensive. She kept moving from city to city and state to state, essentially following Rick and his wife all over the country. Every time she decided to move again, it was up to Rick to find her an apartment she wouldn't bitch about, and then he'd pay all of her moving costs.

This wasn't really a four-star read for me. Jean Russo was just too annoying. The repetitiveness of her demands and complaints and all her moving around got old. I'm rating generously because of the impeccable writing, and because of Rick Russo's honesty and courage in telling this story.
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