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Nobody's Fool Paperback – April 12, 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 378 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Sully Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the economically desperate ex-resort town of North Bath, N.Y., Russo's novel displays his characteristic verbal panache and biting wit.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

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. As he demonstrated in Mohawk (Random, 1986) and The Risk Pool (Random, 1989), Russo knows the small towns of upstate New York and the people who inhabit them; he writes with humor and compassion. A delight. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/93.
- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Contemporaries ed edition (April 12, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679753338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679753339
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (378 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Russo hasn't published very many books, but he is quickly becoming one of the great authors of today. In Nobody's Fool, he writes another excellent tale of small-town life, a setting he revisits in his masterpiece, Empire Falls.
The main character in Nobody's Fool is Donald Sullivan, known more commonly as Sully. Sully is something of a free spirit, rarely thinking beyond the moment; now that he's sixty, he's feeling the effects of his short-sightedness; he has many friends but few real relationships, even with his son and his off-and-on again lover. Indeed, the closest relationship he has is with his landlady.
It's hard to describe this novel in terms of plot, since this is more a book about characters than a regular story. Russo is not interested in the standard beginning-middle-end structure of a novel; instead this book is almost pure middle. Plenty happens, but as in real life, few things are neatly resolved.
Russo is a brilliant writer and makes all his characters multi-dimensional. There are no good guys or bad guys here; even Sully, a likeable enough fellow, has some definite flaws. The way all these characters interact - Sully, his landlady Miss Beryl, his friend/worshipper Rub, his foe/friend Carl and the dozen or so others - is what makes this book so much fun. There is humor here, but this is not a comic novel; instead, it is a novel that does not fit well into any category.
For those whose tastes run beyond strict genre fiction, this is definitely a reccomended read. It just one indication of what a great writer Russo is.
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Format: Paperback
Thank God for Amazon. I discovered Richard Russo while looking at reviews of Moo by Jane Smiley. A reviewer put me onto Straight Man, and that's how I got to Nobody's Fool.
I liked Straight Man very much. Then I went on to The Risk Pool and Nobody's Fool, which I read within a few months of each other about a year ago. Looking back it's hard to separate the two because of their similar setting and characters.
Both are wonderful. If there is the perfect novel, both The Risk Pool and Nobody's Fool are it. One night while I was reading Nobody's Fool in bed, I finished a paragraph and put the book down on my chest thinking that I had actually been touched by God; it was that unusual. I felt that I had experienced perfection. That has only happened to me once before.
Russo's chracters are "ordinary;" some would call them losers. Russo clearly loves them, and that is the wonder of these two books. When I tried to describe Russo's writing to an author friend, she said that a good writer leads his readers by the hand, but she said it sounded in this case as if Russo were leading his readers by the soul. I couldn't have said it better.
Please read this book.
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By A Customer on July 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
When is the rest of the country going to catch on to the numerous qualities of Russo's writing? If the reviews of his books here on Amazon are any indication, he is slowly but surely gaining fans every time someone picks up one of his books.
I picked up a copy of Straight Man at a bargain rack a while back, and to this day that book remains one of my favorite contemporary novels of all time. It pokes fun of academia, political correctness, family turmoil and greed with humor and compassion.
Nobody's Fool comes in a close second. I absolutely loved the character Sully, the principled loser and antihero of the novel who seems to keep begrudgingly doing the right thing and doing his best to maintain order in a chaotic town. His idiotic but loyal sidekick, Rub, is a perfect comic foil, and the scenes of them scheming to make a few bucks are outright hilarious. Every character in the novel, from Sully's old landlady and her busybody friends to the humorless bartender and the familiar group of losers at Sully's numerous stomping grounds, are dead on accurate and believable. Russo writes the best dialogue of any modern writer I know.
The book, like most of Russo's fiction, peels back the layers of a small town in upstate New York, a town that somehow missed out on prosperity when the interstate drew travelers away, but Russo writes about the town and its inhabitants with humor and compassion. This is not the stark, depressing realism of a Russell Banks novel like Affliction. You will laugh out loud at Sully's shameful flirtations, and at Rub's considerable problems at home with his perpetually angry wife, while recognizing the truth in Russo's small town mosaic. Read Nobody's Fool and Straight Man, and you will be a Russo fan for life.
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Format: Paperback
This a wonderful book. It will have you smiling, laughing, and concerned with the lives and events of a place that might otherwise be seen as of little worth.

Anyone who has driven through the secondary roads of Northern New York will recognize the book's breathtaking authenticity. This is the land of rusting cars sitting on blocks in front yards, old farm houses slumped over and left unpainted for decades, and ugly roadside beer joints with neon window signs.

The town at the center of the story is a place, once somewhat grand, now for years in serious decline. Charm can be spotted in the decayed gingerbread woodwork of century-old houses whose residents are too poor or old to keep them up. Some huge old trees give parts of the main street a disguise of faded elegance.

The town might be taken as a metaphor for the main character, Sully, who is slowly rotting into the same fabric of decay. Sully is charming, offensive, funny, and pathetic in turns. He is both biting observer of the town's slide into oblivion and full participant.

Sully is a complex human being, and surely one of the most memorable characters in modern American literature. He is actually one of a number of attempts by Richard Russo to come to terms with the man who was his extraordinary father. Most of these attempts have not been as appealing or successful as Nobody's Fool, the only exception being The Risk Pool, another fine book, where his central character is a boy thrown by circumstances into the bizarre, chaotic life of his father, a much rawer character than Sully.

Russo has the gift to hold a place up to laughter while yet never separating himself from what he is having us laugh at. It is that quality that gives grace to a story that could fall into brutal sarcasm.
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