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The Risk Pool

( 56 )

Overview

A wonderfully funn and perceptive novel in the traditions of Thornton Wilder and Anne Tyler, The Risk Pool is set in Mohawk, New York, where Ned Hall is doing his best to grow up, even though neither of his estranged parents can properly be called adult.

His father, Sam, cultivates bad habits so assiduously that he is stuck at the bottom of his auto insurance risk pool. His mother, Jenny, is slowly going crazy from resentment at a husband who refuses either to stay or to stay ...

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The Risk Pool

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Overview

A wonderfully funn and perceptive novel in the traditions of Thornton Wilder and Anne Tyler, The Risk Pool is set in Mohawk, New York, where Ned Hall is doing his best to grow up, even though neither of his estranged parents can properly be called adult.

His father, Sam, cultivates bad habits so assiduously that he is stuck at the bottom of his auto insurance risk pool. His mother, Jenny, is slowly going crazy from resentment at a husband who refuses either to stay or to stay away. As Ned veers between allegiances to these grossly inadequate role models, Richard Russo gives us a book that overflows with outsized characters and outlandish predicaments and whose vision of family is at once irreverent and unexpectedly moving.

A "rich, anecdotal novel" Boston Globe about Ned Hall, a man trying to resolve the tug between his very different, estranged parents.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Russo proves himself a master at evoking the sights, feelings, and smells of a town. . . . [The Risk Pool is] superbly original and maliciously funny." --The New York Times Book Review

"A fine, closely observed novel . . . Richard Russo writes with such sympathy and attention to the rhythms of small-town life that he invests inarticulate lives with genuine passion. . . . [He] has succeeded in creating characters with the emotional weight of people we've known in real life." --The New York Times

"Weighted with wonderful detail . . . a rich, anecdotal novel brimming with the metaphorical lessons of adolescence: on pocket billiards and sexual frustration, trout fishing and serenity." --Boston Globe

"Richard Russo has it just perfect in The Risk Pool. A gem of a novel." --St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Brilliantly fulfilling the promise of his first novel, Mohawk , Russo's ``richly satisfying narrative'' is about the coming-of-age of Ned Hall, son of Sam Hall--a disreputable barfly, petty thief and gambler whose wicked ways place him at the lower end of the insurance risk pool. PW called the author's prose style ``as seductive as spring.'' (Nov.)
Library Journal
A story of not-so-successful folk in a decaying town in New York as seen through the eyes of Ned Hall, better known as ``Sam's son.'' Sam was once an average citizen who grew up, married, and went off to fight in World War II but returned a drifter. Leaving his wife and small son at home, he would haunt the bars and pool halls and hobnob with his cronies. Now and then he'd appear from nowhere to take Ned with him. When Ned's mother, Jenny, trips over the edge, Ned goes to live with Sam in a dilapidated loft above the town's one department store and shares his father's roguish life. Ned's 20-year story is filled with wonderfully drawn characters and hilarious adventures but the subtext is one of sadness and near desperation. Highly recommended. Marion Hanscom, SUNY at Binghamton Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679753834
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/15/1994
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 418,460
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Russo grew up in Gloversville, New York, the small, mostly working-class town that has served as the prototype for his fictional Mohawk and North Bath. His parents were separated, and he recalls his father as a man who "lived a life of studied bad habits. I became of interest to him when I got old enough to follow him into the OTB and then into the bar and then into the pool hall, when I could be taken to the places he went and not interrupt the rhythm of his life."

With his father, Russo worked construction jobs during his vacations from the University of Arizona, where he received his B.A. He later went on to get a master's degree and had almost earned his Ph.D. in American literature when it occurred to him that he would rather write his own novels than analyze other people's. He is the author of three books, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, and Nobody's Fool, which has recently been made into a feature film starring Paul Newman and Bruce Willis. Richard Russo teaches writing at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He lives there with his wife, Barbara, and their two daughters.

Biography

Prizewinning author Richard Russo is regarded by many critics as the best writer about small-town America since Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis. "He doesn't over-sentimentalize [small towns]," said Maureen Corrigan, the book critic for NPR's "Fresh Air." Nor does he belittle the dreams and hardships of his working-class characters. "I come from a blue-collar family myself and I think he gets the class interactions; he just really nails class in his novels," said Corrigan.

When Russo left his own native small town in upstate New York, it was with hopes of becoming a college professor. But during his graduate studies, he began to have second thoughts about the academic life. While finishing up his doctorate, he took a creative writing class; and a new career path opened in front of him.

Russo's first novel set the tone for much of his later work. The story of an ailing industrial town and the interwoven lives of its inhabitants, Mohawk won critical praise for its witty, engaging style. In subsequent books, he has brought us a dazzling cast of characters, mostly working-class men and women who are struggling with the problems of everyday life (poor health, unemployment, mounting bills, failed marriages) in dilapidated, claustrophobic burghs that have -- like their denizens -- seen better days. In 2001, Russo received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, a brilliant, tragicomic set-piece that explores past and present relationships in a once-thriving Maine town whose textile mill and shirt factory have gone bust.

Russo's vision of America would be bleak, except for the wit and optimism he infuses into his stories. Even when his characters are less than lovable, they are funny, rueful, and unfailingly human. "There's a version of myself that I still see in a kind of alternative universe and it's some small town in upstate New York or someplace like that," Russo said in an interview. That ability to envision himself in the bars and diners of small-town America has served him well. "After the last sentence is read, the reader continues to see Russo's tender, messed-up people coming out of doorways, lurching through life," said the fiction writer Annie Proulx. "And keeps on seeing them because they are as real as we are."

Good To Know

In 1994, Russo's book Nobody's Fool was made into a movie starring Paul Newman and Bruce Willis. Newman also starred in the 1998 movie Twilight, for which Russo wrote the screenplay. Russo now divides his time between writing fiction and writing for the movies.

When he wrote his first books, Russo was employed full-time as a college teacher, and would stop at the local diner between classes to work on his novels. After the success of Nobody's Fool (the book and the movie), he was able to quit teaching -- but he still likes to write in spots such as the Camden Deli. It's "a less lonely way to write," he told USA Today. "I'm less self-conscious when it's not so quiet."

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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 56 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(39)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Autum

    Hey.....

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    So so

    Not one of his best...dragged on in spots.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 22, 2012

    Russo's Best!

    I read The Risk Pool shortly after original publication, and have re-read it three or four times since. It's one of the most enjoyable reads I've ever experienced. I have read all of his books, and The Risk Pool is Russo's best work. He creates word magic with phrases such as, "He put out what was left of his cigarette with what was left of his thumb". You can't go wrong with this one!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Any small town USA

    The characters and the storyline brought back fond, and not so fond, memories of the small Louisiana town I grew up in. I recommend reading Mohawk first, then this follow up. The writing is superb! Another winner for Russo.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Another Russo winner!

    The kind of book that keeps you up for "5 more minutes..." until you pass out and cant wait to start reading again as soon as you wake up

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    Great story!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2014

    Really a 3-1/2 star novel--the question was whether to round up

    Really a 3-1/2 star novel--the question was whether to round up or down.
    After reading Richard Russo's recent memoir which focussed on caring for his mother well into adult life, I thought I should revisit some of his 
    fiction. I had read Empire Falls and enjoyed it very much, so since then I picked up from the library his collection of short stories, and after that Bridge of Sighs.
    Risk Pool is the last of his books I plan to read for a while. While I enjoy them, his stories seem more to me to be less about plot and more about its characters.
    The settings so far have always been in small, failing mill towns in upstate New York. While I enjoyed the read, it seemed to me to be far too long, and I eventually tired of story after story after story about the narrator's father, his drinking exploits, and his negligent parenting. I simply didn't like the father, and felt annoyed that Russo seemed to want me to like him or at least feel sorry for him at the end. I didn't. At the same time, isn't that how life is? Sometimes the people who do all the wrong things are the most beloved because they are "fun" and the people who do all the right things, are treated with far less admiration. I felt that way about the lawyer who eventually married Ned's mother. Long suffering, and patient, he seemed to me the only one in the story who really looked out for Ned both as a child and into adulthood. Yet Ned seemed to have little appreciation for him. His mother never loved him. And his father beat him up. Unfortunately, while I didn't like a lot of the character's behaviors, they also rang true to life and Russo was adept at making that point--like it or not. Still, at the end of the novel, I closed the book and was done with it. I felt no sadness that the story had come to an end. For that reason, I found it a good story, but not a great one.-

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2014

    Emma

    This isn't res 6.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2014

    Kit

    It is on my nook. O well. I'm at the other place.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2013

    Apprentice den

    Apprentice den

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    Can i join ?

    Name : unknown . Age : around the age of an apprentice . Position : unknown right now ( im new ) . Pros : good hunter and fighter . Also a good tracker . Agile and fast but silent . Can climb trees very good . Cons : knows nothing about medicine or her past and is very jumpy. Pelt : light brown with black ears and paws . Eyes : green . Personality : smart , curious , fierce (especialy when judged quickly ) , if scared she will kill you unless you say who you are , jumpy . Mates : none . Dosnt want any either . Kits : none . Dosnt want any . History ( from what i know ) : when i was born my mom and dad were in the woods alone and got attacked by bad cats . Both were killed . I was the only one that made it through in birth and i survived the attack . Then i was a loner for a while until i got attacked by bad cats and so i killed them then came here .

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    Silverpearl

    Name: Silverpearl. Age: 13 moons. Mate: none. Looks: a slender , muscular she, with silvery fur that has a mother of pearl sheen and milky blue eyes. Kits: none. Pros: can fight well, and is a stealthy stalker. Cons: cannot bear water, and gets sick at the sight of blood sometimes.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2012

    Icemoon

    Name: Icemoon . Age: 7 moons . Position: young warrior . Pros: extremely fast and great hunter . Cons: terrible fighter. Very little strength . Pelt: pure sleek black. Eyes: bright violet with specks of icy blue. Personality: very shy. She doesnt talk much. mate: none, looking . Kits: none .

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2012

    Omashu

    Name: Omashu
    Age: (unknown)
    Position: Warrior
    Pros: Knows every herb and their use, fighting
    Cons: Unknown past, easily annoyed
    Pelt: Varies, usualy white
    Eyes: Mixture
    Other: (unknown)
    Mate: None
    Kits: Inkkit

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    FULL MOON GATHERING STARTS NOW

    At super result 1

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2012

    Today is a gathring

    At super

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2012

    A cat

    GUYS SOMEONE IS GANNA KILL YOU ALL! RUN! *Dashes of*

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2012

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Cloud

    I need a mate

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Please read

    Join snowclan at red icy. Stonestar

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews

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