I read Richard Russo’s novel while on vacation, and I have to say, as a vacation novel it wasn’t the worse choice: straightforward in thematic content (are we different from our parents? can we create our “self”?), resolutely optimistic about the future of the American family, and a serious six hundred pages.
Had I not been on vacation and pleased to have saved space in my bag by only packing one book, I might have harsher criticisms, for instance: the repetition of plot/character from earlier works (does changing the restaurant in Empire Falls to a grocery store, and the names of the cities, and the factory owners in charge of the class divide really constitute creative development?), the ponderous explorations of childhood memories (sure certain events – the locked box – require detail, but certainly not every bicycle trip taken between ages 6 and 10), and the staunch attachment to a grade six plot arc.
But as it is, I enjoyed the book for the simple pleasure of a predictable protagonist, who even in the long awaited climax behaved consistently, and a plot that never excited me so much as to care: exactly the right read for a beach where one can fall asleep and pick up a random sentence on the same page and feel as though nothing has been lost.