By Sierra Maciorowski
A childhood spent in Gloversville, the small town which would become the basis for Russo’s future writing endeavors; a young adulthood spent around the nation as his mother’s support and companion; and an adulthood keeping together both his mother’s life and his own… these are the components of Elsewhere, by Richard Russo.
Dealing with parents in rarely simple. Dealing with a mother who suffers from so-called nerves, an almost nonexistent sense of her own fears, and a disproportionate amount of confusion surrounding her hometown of Gloversville is simply impossible.
Because of this, Russo’s delightful memoir delves into his own recollections of his childhood – all centered around his mother’s dependency upon him – with an air of blunt sorrow.
Does Jean Russo understand how much of a burden she is for him? Can he balance his work, family, and mother while trying to pay the bills? Although Russo questions his choices constantly, he never ceases to provide for his mother until the day she dies- and finds himself wondering about her opinions even after her death.
When his daughter is diagnosed with OCD, storyteller Russo looks back into his own past, recognizing the tell-tale signs of the disorder in his mother’s impulsive decisions and fear of contamination. The tale that follows is charming, terrifying, and typical of Russo’s simple, direct approach to writing.
Russo, known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, tells the combined life-stories of himself and his mother with grace and delicacy, even as he bitterly questions his own choices and those of his family.
Elsewhere is a tale of desperation, and in some ways an autobiography, but Russo’s poise at the paper gives his memoir a beautiful, dreadful appeal. Be forewarned: the moments of joy are fleeting and rare; in the footsteps of Empire Falls comes a story difficult to hear.