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Everybody's Fool

Everybody's Fool

3.2 9
by Richard Russo

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A New York Times 2016 Notable Book

An immediate national best seller and instant classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls. Richard Russo returns to North Bath—“a town where dishonesty abounds, everyone misapprehends everyone else and half the citizens are half-crazy” (The New York Times)—and


A New York Times 2016 Notable Book

An immediate national best seller and instant classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls. Richard Russo returns to North Bath—“a town where dishonesty abounds, everyone misapprehends everyone else and half the citizens are half-crazy” (The New York Times)—and the characters who made Nobody’s Fool a beloved choice of book clubs everywhere. Everybody’s Fool is classic Russo, filled with humor, heart, hard times, and people you can’t help but love, possibly because their various faults make them so human.
Everybody’s Fool picks up roughly a decade since we were last with Miss Beryl and Sully on New Year's Eve 1984. The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is staring down a VA cardiologist’s estimate that he has only a year or two left, and it’s hard work trying to keep this 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 (and now a regretful one). We also enjoy the company of Doug Raymer, the chief of police who’s obsessing primarily over the identity of the man his wife might’ve been about to run off with, before dying in a freak accident . . . Bath’s mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, whose wife problems are, if anything, even more pressing . . . and then there’s Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upward might now come to ruin. And finally, there’s Charice Bond—a light at the end of the tunnel that is Chief Raymer’s office—as well as her brother, Jerome, who might well be the train barreling into the station.

A crowning achievement—“like hopping on the last empty barstool surrounded by old friends” (Entertainment Weekly)—from one of the greatest storytellers of our time.

Editorial Reviews

B&N Reads
If this book's title looks a little familiar to you, it's probably because it's the sequel to the 1993 smash hit Nobody's Fool. The residents of the blink-and-you-miss-it town of North Bath, New York are back at it again with their haphazard antics. Unlike the first novel, Everybody's Fool features well-meaning malcontent Sully Sullivan as a side character instead of the main event. This time around, it's earnest Chief of Police Doug Raymer who's the star of the show. Read More
The New York Times Book Review - T. C. Boyle
…in both [Nobody's Fool and Everybody's Fool], the humor is…genial, and it works in service of the characters. Sully in particular emerges as one of the most credible and engaging heroes in recent American fiction…Taken together, at over 1,000 pages, the two Fool books represent an enormous achievement, creating a world as richly detailed as the one we step into each day of our lives. Bath is real, Sully is real, and so is Hattie's and the White Horse Tavern and Miss Peoples's house on Main, and I can only hope we haven't seen the last of them. I'd love to see what Sully's going to be up to at 80.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
…delightful…North Bath, N.Y., a fictitious upstate town [is]…a town where dishonesty abounds, everyone misapprehends everyone else and half the citizens are half-crazy. It's a great place for a reader to visit, and it seems to be Mr. Russo's spiritual home…Both Bath and Everybody's Fool are funny—very funny…Mr. Russo's people…sideswipe, wisecrack, sneak, scheme and talk to figments of their imaginations. It's a joy to spend time with any of them, two-legged or four.
Publishers Weekly
When Doug Raymer, chief of police of the forlornly depressed town of North Bath, Maine, falls into an open grave during a funeral service, it is only the first of many farcical and grisly incidents in Russo's shaggy dog story of revenge and redemption. Among the comical set pieces that propel the narrative are a poisonous snakebite, a falling brick wall, and a stigmatalike hand injury. North Bath, as readers of Nobody's Fool will remember, is the home of Sully Sullivan, the hero of the previous book and also a character here. Self-conscious, self-deprecating, and convinced he's everybody's fool, Raymer is obsessed with finding the man his late wife was about to run off with when she fell down the stairs and died. He's convinced that the garage door opener he found in her car will lead him to her lover's home. Meanwhile, he pursues an old feud with Sully; engages in repartee with his clever assistant and her twin brother; and tries to arrest a sociopath whose preferred means of communication are his fists. The remaining circle of ne'er-do-wells, ex-cons, daily drunks, deadbeats, and thieves behave badly enough to keep readers chuckling. The give-and-take of rude but funny dialogue is Russo's trademark, as is his empathy for down-and-outers on the verge of financial calamity. He takes a few false steps, such as giving Raymer a little voice in his head named Dougie, but clever plot twists end the novel on lighthearted note. 250,000-copy announced first printing. (May)
Library Journal
★ 05/15/2016
A new novel from Pulitzer Prize winner Russo is always cause for celebration, even more so when it returns readers to North Bath, NY, where Sully Sullivan (Nobody's Fool) and his cronies still inhabit the same bar stools. Ten years on, Sully's circumstances have changed considerably. Landlady Miss Beryl died, willing her home to Sully, while he and his estranged son have forged a tentative peace. He's still harassing his old buddy Rub and has drummed up sympathy for the contractor Carl Roebuck, who's struggling with the aftereffects of prostate cancer. The action turns to police chief Doug Raymer, a painfully insecure man burning with anger and grief at the betrayal and sudden death of his wife, Becka. Does everybody in town believe Raymer is the biggest fool going? Only his worldly wise office assistant, Charice, can talk him down off the ledge. Loneliness and missed connections loom large in Russo's work, but he tempers tear-inducing sentiment with laugh-out-loud moments. VERDICT Known for his keen sense of place, the blue-collar mill towns of the Northeast, Russo avoids caricature with writing that reflects his deep affection for the quotidian and for the best and worst that's found in every human heart. [See Prepub Alert, 2/21/16.]—Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-02-17
A sequel to the great Nobody's Fool (1993) checks in on the residents of poor old North Bath, New York, 10 years later. In his breakout third novel, Russo (Elsewhere, 2012, etc.) introduced a beat-up cast of variously broke, overweight, senile, adulterous, dissolute, and philosophical citizens of a ruined resort town, living out their luckless lives between a bar known as the Horse and a diner called Hattie's Lunch. Cock of the walk was Sully, the gruff but softhearted practical joker/construction worker played by Paul Newman in the movie. Now past 70, Sully is back with a nest egg (his trifecta came in twice; his landlady left him her house), serious health problems, and a dog named Rub. Since his best friend is a mentally challenged dwarf also named Rub, this causes confusion. Wisely, Russo moves Sully off center stage and features one of his nemeses from the first book, a pathetic police officer named Douglas Raymer (Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film). Raymer is now the chief of police, and the novel follows him and other characters through an action-packed two-day period that includes a funeral, a building collapse, an escaped cobra, a grave robbery, multiple lightning strikes, assaults, and auto thefts, strung together with the page-turning revelations about the characters' private lives Russo does so well. Now it's the 1990s, so the characters' weaknesses include hoarding, OCD, depression, sex addiction/impotence, and a mild case of multiple personality disorder. Chief Raymer is tormented by his beautiful wife's horrible death, by a sophisticated colleague from the yuppie town next door, and by the malaprop motto he accidentally had printed on his campaign cards: "We're Not Happy Until You're Not Happy." Who is this Douglas Raymer, his English teacher used to write on his papers, and it will take a whole lot of hell breaking loose for him to find the answer. For maximum pleasure, read Nobody's Fool first. Russo hits his trademark trifecta: satisfying, hilarious, and painlessly profound.
From the Publisher
“Cause for celebration . . . writing that reflects [Russo’s] deep affection for the quotidian and for the best and worst that’s found in every human heart.” —Sally Bissell, Library Journal

“Buoyantly unsentimental . . . You hold his books to your heart.” —Jan Stuart, The Boston Globe

“Elegiac but never sentimental. . . . Russo’s compassionate heart is open to the sorrows, and yes, the foolishness of this lonely world, but also the humor, friendship and love that abide.” —Paul Wilner, San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] sweeping comic novel . . . Whether you loved Nobody’s Fool or never heard of it, reasons about to read its sequel.” —Betty J. Cotter, The Providence Journal

“Hard-bitten, hard-drinking, hardscrabble comedy [whose] timing is impeccable: Russo understands more about the ‘plight of the working class’ than any so-called pundit attempting to decipher this election.” —Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor

“Russo [renders] with uncommon grace the dashed expectations and wistful regrets of his working-class hero, Sully.” —O Magazine

“Rollicking and heartfelt.” —Jeff Baker, The Seattle Times

“For fans who’ve missed Sully and the gang, Everybody’s Fool is like hopping on the last empty barstool surrounded by old friends.” —Jeff Labreque, Entertainment Weekly

“A writer of great comedy and warmth, Russo’s living proof that a book can be profound and wise without aiming straight into darkness. [His] voice can play in any register, any key, any style [in this] portrait of an entire community, in all its romance and all its grit.” —Eliot Schrefer, USA Today

“Russo brings wit and warmth to this slapstick tale . . . Once again his characters are marvelous creatures, endearing in spite of themselves.” —People

 “A delightful return . . . to a town where dishonesty abounds, everyone misapprehends everyone else and half the citizens are half-crazy. It’s a great place for a reader to visit, and it seems to be Russo’s spiritual home.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“How could twenty-three years have slipped by since Nobody’s Fool? . . . Russo is probably the best writer of physical comedy that we have [but] even the zaniest elements of the story are interspersed with episodes of wincing cruelty. . . . The abiding wonder [is that] Russo’s novel bears down on two calamitous days and exploits the action in every single minute . . . mudslides, grave robbery, collapsing buildings, poisonous snakes, drug deals, arson, lightning strikes and toxic goo. North Bath is a sleepy little town that never sleeps [and] no tangent ever feels tangential.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Everybody should read Everybody’s Fool. Almost nobody in Richard Russo’s novel is sure of anything, but I’m sure of that. . . . [He] has given readers all they should want.” —Brian O’Neill, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The Fool books represent an enormous achievement, creating a world as richly detailed as the one we step into each day of our lives. . . . Sully in particular emerges as one of the most credible and engaging heroes in recent American fiction. . . . Bath is real, Sully is real, and so is Hattie’s and the White Horse Tavern and Miss Peoples’s house on Main, and I can only hope we haven’t seen the last of them. I’d love to see what Sully’s going to be up to at 80.” —T. Coraghessan Boyle, The New York Times Book Review

“I was holding my breath for fear Everybody's Fool wouldn’t live up to its predecessor, but I shouldn't have worried. As good as Russo was in 1993, he’s even better now. And Everybody’s Fool is a delight [with] enough bizarre events, startling revelations, unlikely heroes and touching moments to supply a dozen small towns . . . He is also a master of plotting, from cliffhangers to twists that deftly link apparently unrelated threads. This book’s tone is largely comic, but Russo writes with uncommon insight about love, families and friendship.” —Collette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

“A madcap romp, weaving mystery, suspense and comedy in a race to the final pages.” —Jennifer Maloney, The Wall Street Journal

“Triumphant. . . Russo's reunion with these beloved characters is genius: silly slapstick and sardonic humor play out in a rambling, rambunctious story that poignantly emphasizes that particular brand of loyalty and acceptance that is synonymous with small-town living.” —Carol Haggas, Booklist (starred)

“Russo hits his trademark trifecta: satisfying, hilarious, and painlessly profound.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.37(d)

Read an Excerpt


Hilldale cemetery in North Bath was cleaved right down the middle, its Hill and Dale sections divided by a two-­lane macadam road, originally a colonial cart path. Death was not a thing unknown to the town’s first hearty residents, but they seemed to have badly misjudged how much of it there’d be, how much ground would be needed to accommodate those lost to harsh winters, violent encounters with savages and all manner of illness. Or was it life, their own fecundity, they’d miscalculated? Ironically, it amounted to the same thing. The plot of land set aside on the outskirts of town became crowded, then overcrowded, then chock-­full, until finally the dead broke containment, spilling across the now-­paved road onto the barren flats and reaching as far as the new highway spur that led to the interstate. Where they’d head next was anybody’s guess.

Though blighted by Dutch elm disease in the ’70s and more recently by a mold that attacked tree roots, causing them to weaken and constrict and allowing the ground, without warning, to collapse in pits, the original Hill section was still lovely, its mature plantings offering visitors shade and cool breezes. The gentle, rolling terrain and meandering gravel pathways felt natural and comfortable, even giving the impression that those resting beneath its picturesque hummocks—­some interred before the Revolutionary War—­had come there by choice rather than necessity. They seemed not so much deceased as peacefully drowsing beneath tilting headstones that resembled weathered comfy hats worn at rakish angles. Given the choice of waking into a world even more full of travail than the version they left, who could blame them for punching the snooze button and returning to their slumbers for another quarter century or so?

By contrast, the newer Dale was as flat as a Formica tabletop and every bit as aesthetically pleasing. Its paved pathways were laid out on a grid, the more contemporary grave sites baked and raw looking, its lawn, especially the stretch nearest the highway, a quilt of sickly yellows and fecal browns. The adjacent acreage, where the Ultimate Escape Fun Park had once been pictured, was boggy and foul. Lately, during periods of prolonged rain, its pestilential groundwater tunneled under the road, loosening the soil and tugging downhill the caskets of those most recently interred. After a good nor’easter there was no guarantee that the grave site you visited featured the same casket as the week before. To many the whole thing defied logic. With all that seeping water, the Dale should have been richly verdant, whereas everything planted there shriveled and died, as if in sympathy with its permanent, if shifty, inhabitants. There had to be contamination involved, people said. All those putrid acres had been used as an unofficial dump for as long as anybody could remember, which was why they’d been purchased so cheaply by the fun park’s planners. Recently, during a prolonged drought, dozens of leaking metal drums decorated with skulls and crossbones had surfaced. Some were old and rusty, leaking God-­only-­knew-what; other newcomers were labeled “chrome,” which cast a pall of suspicion on neighboring Mohawk, a town once rich in tanneries, but these accusations were emphatically and for the most part convincingly denied. Anybody wanting to know what those tanneries did with their dyes and carcinogenic chemicals only had to visit the local landfill, the stream that ran through town or the hospital’s oncology ward. Still, didn’t the drums of toxic slurry have to come from somewhere? Downstate most likely. On this point the history of New York was unambiguous. Shit—­both liquid and solid, literal and metaphorical—­ran uphill in defiance of physics, often into the Catskills, at times all the way to the Adirondacks.

No jaunty, charming grave markers in Dale. Here the stones were laid purposefully flat so they couldn’t be tipped over by teenage hooligans. Bath’s legendary eighth-­grade English teacher, Beryl Peoples, whose dim view of human nature she occasionally shared in acerbic letters to the North Bath Weekly Journal, had warned what would happen. With all the stones lying flat, she cautioned, and without any trees or hedgerows to provide an obstacle, visitors would treat the cemetery like a supermarket parking lot and drive directly to whatever grave they had in mind. This warning had been dismissed as perverse and outrageous, a slander on the citizenry, but the old woman had been vindicated. Not a week went by without someone calling the police station to report tire tracks across Grandma’s headstone, right where her survivors imagined her upturned, beatific face to be. “How’d you like it if somebody drove a pickup over your skull?” the angry caller would want to know.

Chief of Police Douglas Raymer, arriving at Hilldale late to witness the interment of Judge Barton Flatt, was always at a loss how to respond to such queries, which seemed to him so fundamentally flawed that you couldn’t even tell if they were real questions. Were people inviting him to draw the obvious distinction between driving an automobile over an ancestor’s grave—­an insensitive, inconsiderate act, sure—­and driving it over a living person’s head, obviously a homicidal and criminal one? How was it helpful for him to imagine what either felt like? It was as if people expected him to make sense of both the physical world and its miscreants, the latter too numerous to count, too various to explicate, the former too deeply mysterious to fathom. When had either become part of the police chief’s job description? Wasn’t explaining the world’s riddles and humans’ behaviors what philosophers and psychiatrists and priests were paid to do? Most of the time Raymer had no idea why he himself did what he did, never mind other people.

Whatever his job was, most days—­and today was certainly no exception—­it sucked. As a patrolman he’d imagined that, as chief, his hours would be filled with genuine police work, or at least real public service, but after two terms he now knew better. Of course in North Bath most crimes didn’t demand much detective work. A woman would turn up at the hospital looking like somebody’d beaten the shit out of her, claiming she tripped over her child’s toy. When you visited her husband and offered to shake, the hand he reluctantly extended looked more like a monstrous fruit, purple and swollen, the skin splitting and oozing interior juices. But even such dispiritingly mundane investigations were fascinating compared with Raymer’s current duties as chief of police. When he wasn’t attending the funerals of people he didn’t even like or addressing groups of “concerned citizens” who seemed less interested in any solutions he might propose than how much churlish invective he could be forced to swallow, he was a glorified clerk, a mere functionary who spent his time filling out forms, reporting to selectmen, going over budgets. Some days he never got out from behind his desk. He was getting fat. Also, the pay really sucked. Okay, sure, he made more than he had as a patrolman, but not enough more to cover the endless aggravation. He supposed he could live with the fact that the job sucked if he was any good at it, but the truth was that he sucked. He had no idea what he’d have done without Charice—­speaking of aggravation—­and her incessant badgering. Because she was right, he was increasingly forgetful and unfocused and preoccupied. Since Becka . . .

But no, he wasn’t going to think about her. He would not. He would concentrate on the here and now.

Which was hot as Uganda. By the time Raymer crossed the cemetery parking lot and walked the hundred or so yards to where a couple dozen mourners were clustered around Judge Flatt’s open grave, he was drenched in sweat. Such punishing heat was unheard of in May. Here in the foothills of the Adirondacks, Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer, was almost always profoundly disappointing to the region’s winter-­ravaged populace, who seemed to believe they could will summer into being. They would have their backyard barbecues even when temperatures dipped into the high forties and they had to dig out their parkas. They would play softball, even after a week’s worth of frigid rains made a soupy mess of the diamond. If a pale, weak sun came out they would go out to the reservoir to water-­ski. But this year the town’s fervent prayers had been answered, as they so often were, at least in Raymer’s experience, with ironic vengeance. Midnineties for the past three days, no end in sight.

Raymer would’ve been more than content to suffer on the periphery of today’s proceedings, but he mistakenly made eye contact with the mayor, who, before he could look away, motioned for him to join the other dignitaries, which he reluctantly did. Yesterday, he’d tried his best to weasel out of this funeral, even going so far as to volunteer Charice, who was growing increasingly desperate to get away from the station house, to attend in his place. He’d explained to Gus that he not only had no particular affection for Barton Flatt but also counted him among the many banes of his existence. But the mayor was having none of it. The judge had been an important man, and Gus expected Raymer not just to attend but to be decked out in his dress blues, heat or no heat.

So here he was under the punishing, unseasonable sun, honoring a man who’d disdained him for the better part of two decades. Not that Raymer was alone in this. Disdain was His Honor’s default mode, and he made no secret that he considered all human beings venal (a term Raymer had to look up) and feckless (another). If he disliked criminals, he was even less fond of lawyers and policemen, who in his opinion were supposed to know better. The very first time Raymer had been summoned to the judge’s chambers, after accidentally discharging his weapon, the judge had fixed him with his trademark baleful stare for what had felt like an eternity before turning his attention to Ollie North, the chief back then. “You know my thoughts on arming morons,” he told Ollie. “You arm one, you have to arm them all. Otherwise it’s not even good sport.” Over the years Raymer had had numerous opportunities to improve the man’s low estimation of him but had managed only to worsen it.

But of course there was another reason Raymer had tried to weasel out of this. He hadn’t been back to Hilldale since Becka’s funeral, and he wasn’t at all sure how he’d react to her proximity. He was pretty sure she was out of his system, but what if the shock and pain of her loss came flooding back and he broke down and started sobbing over the memory of a woman who’d made a complete fool of him? What if legitimate mourners witnessed his blubbering? Wouldn’t his unmanly sorrow make a mockery of their more heartfelt grief?

“You’re late,” Gus said out of the corner of his mouth, when Raymer joined him.

Excerpted from Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo Copyright © 2016 by Richard Russo. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven previous novels; two collections of stories; and Elsewhere, a memoir. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries.

Brief Biography

Gloversville, New York
Date of Birth:
July 15, 1949
Place of Birth:
Johnstown, New York
B.A., University of Arizona, 1967; Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1979; M.F.A., University of Arizona, 1980

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Everybody's Fool: A novel 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Russo is simply the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Richard Russo has been one of my favorite authors for years. I enjoy his humor and feel like I know his characters.
Anonymous 27 days ago
Found this to be rather slow going for a while and then the pace picked up. All and all a good read with a lot of chuckles and a few hearty laughs. Overall a three and a half star rating. J M Lydon
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you read Straight Man which was a hoot! you will love this book! From the beginning, I laugh so hard, I couldn't keep my eyes open to read. And then I convulsed again when I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not his best effort for sure
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad sack story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do not like this