Elsewhere by Richard Russo

One
of the joys of reading a memoir by a favorite author is recognizing the
life story behind the fiction. Gloversville, New York, once the
capital of the glove-making industry, is now an economically depleted
ghost town whose inhabitants battle unemployment and factory-induced
illnesses. This is the town that appears in books such as Nobody's Fool and Empire Falls. This is the town in which Richard Russo grew up.

Russo's
parents divorced when he was very young. Raised by his mother and
grandparents, he developed a close relationship with his family. But
the Russo family had a dark side: his mother was wracked by anxiety and
what would later turn out to be obsessive compulsive disorder. She
thought of Richard as "her rock," and she always needed to live close to
him. She was wracked by self-doubts and inner turmoil. Living
"elsewhere" was her only solution to escape the demons within. With
age, her anxiety increased and panic attacks and unrealistic dreams
became the norm.


Elsewhere is a painfully honest look at Russo's
early and later life. It is a book about mental illness that is neither
diagnosed nor treated appropriately.  Most important, this is the story
of a son who remains a constant in his mother's life and for whom he
attributes his gifts as a writer.

It was from
my mother that I learned that reading was not a duty but a reward, and
from her that I intuited a vital truth: most people are trapped in a
solitary existence, a life circumscribed by want and failures of
imagination, limitations from which readers are exempt. You can't make a
writer without first making a reader, and that's what my mother made
me.
( p. 156)

If you are a fan of Richard Russo and have read his works of fiction, Elsewhere will be especially appealing.  The writer's talent and resilience shine throughout this touching memoir.

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