After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.
Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a charming, feckless father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), with everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon.
A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations in achieving that goal—beautifully recounted here—were to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both. Fraught with the timeless dynamic of going home again, encompassing hopes and fears and the relentless tides of familial and individual complications, this story is arresting, comic, heartbreaking, and truly beautiful, an immediate classic.
“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
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by Andrew Shaffer, with contributions by Fin Shepard and April Wexler