Elsewhere: A Memoir

Richard Russo's memoir, Elsewhere, is pretty much populated by one person, his mom. This "stylish woman" was difficult, demanding and complaining, but she loved her "Ricko-Mio" and he loved her. This is more her story than Russo's. And more than anything else, it's a love story.

Russo grew up with his mom in the upstate New York mill town of Gloversville; his divorced dad wasn't around much. When it was time to go to college in Tucson, Ariz., he wanted to buy a car, which was fine with her, "because she was coming with me"--she considered the two of them "one entity." And so the pattern begins: every time Russo moves, mom moves too, and there's always something wrong with her apartment. She complains, is disappointed, frustrated. It's hard to love a mom who is a constant source of pain. They were never really here, or there; they were always elsewhere.

Eventually, Russo was able to turn his mother's obsessions "to his advantage." Writing novels is "a line of work that suited my temperament and played to my strengths," especially obstinacy. When his own daughter is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Russo has his epiphany: Mom had suffered with it for years. (Why hadn't he realized it?) One might wish for more about Russo and his books and characters and his writing process, but this poignant, beautifully told tale of small town life, love and sorrow is one he had to write. We can hope for more later. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

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