I’ve just closed the back page on my third Richard Russo book this year. The author apparently has some obligatory repeating themes not the least of which is an irrepressible urge, with fifty pages left, to wrap up, tie together or otherwise make whole the literary car wreck of events, people and relationships he has been so good at describing in the preceding 7,000 words. It’s a compulsion of Russo that further degrades the author’s credibility in my “book”.
It’s also becoming apparent that the writer struggles repeatedly with the role of significant women in the lives of the always white middle class male protagonist. “His” mothers I have read about to date are both smart but also cloying and overbearing. They are likely to be a troubling force in the life of the lead character. Not surprising by the final pages these same women usually come through the accumulated emotional disasters smelling like roses or misunderstood saints despite the rough ride he assigned them.
The most recent book – The Old Cape Magic – was in significant ways about Griffin, primary character, who over time revises his assessment of who his parents (especially his mother) were to him. In Russo’s whirlwind book ending resolution the protagonist, despite his repeated recounting of unloving behavior, came to believe that she and the father loved him in some bizarre way. The story brought me to think about my view of my parents’ role in my life. Certainly in childhood and up to puberty my Mom was far more present physically but also emotionally. From that point until 18 or 20 a battle raged in my heart about who was important and why. As they and I aged my dad began to come to the fore despite remaining the more reserved of the two. If mom was the swinging clapper then dad was the big resonant bell. Funny how these things work.