The Risk Pool
By Richard Russo
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679753834, 496pp.)
Publication Date: April 12, 1994
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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.
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.
"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