Read Elsewhere by Richard Russo Online


After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville once famous for producing that eponymous product and anytAfter eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a charming, feckless father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), with everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon.A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations in achieving that goal—beautifully recounted here—were to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both. Fraught with the timeless dynamic of going home again, encompassing hopes and fears and the relentless tides of familial and individual complications, this story is arresting, comic, heartbreaking, and truly beautiful, an immediate classic....

Title : Elsewhere
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307959546
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Elsewhere Reviews

  • Steve
    2019-04-26 22:24

    [Reminder to self: KISS – Keep It Short, Steve.]Richard Russo is a great writer. His stories are fast-moving, his characters are recognizable, and his words entice without adornments. In fact, I like him so much I read this to become a completist. You might imagine that a memoir by a writer of his caliber would be a crowning achievement, and you’d be right for parts. But he chose a fairly narrow focus that in my mind weakened the whole. While I don’t doubt that his main subject – mother Jean – was a profound influence, I found myself wishing that the other drivers shaping him weren’t crowded out by her dominance. Jean had a “nervous condition” that impacted young Rick more than anyone else. Rick’s dad, a gambler with little tolerance for the home situation, had run off early on. Jean, while supportive in a collusive sort of way, learned to manipulate her son well enough to pull his strings even into adulthood. Russo’s wife must have been a saint to put up with all the different do-overs they provided for Jean. Her condition, a severe inability to cope, was undiagnosed during her life, but was later discovered to have been OCD. It certainly gave young Rick a writer’s feel for emotional hardship and conflict. After reading this, I concluded that Russo comes by his empathy honestly. And he’s constitutionally incapable of a bad sentence, though he can write a redundant one. The number of times Jean would buck herself up saying, “I’ll just have to give myself a good talking to,” was well into double figures.As big a fan as I am of Russo, I was hoping for more. There was so little of anything other than these difficult interactions that would count as character-shaping. An interesting exception was when he described his hometown in upstate New York. Gloversville, known in better days for its tannery and ladies’ gloves, was the kind of place he has written about so convincingly in Mohawk, The Risk Pool, and Nobody’s Fool among others. Conclusion: great writing, limited purview, should have been Part 1 of a better rounded memoir.

  • Jeanette
    2019-04-24 19:18

    This book is more "mom"-oir than memoir. You won't learn much about Rick Russo except as it relates to his mother's inescapable grip on him. Jean Russo was one doozy of a dippy demanding dame. She taught Rick to think of himself and his mother as essentially one person -- "You and me against the world." Even as an adult, he couldn't break free of her hold on him. For over 35 years he catered to her ridiculous demands, which cost him a fortune financially and mentally. Ever since Rick was a boy, he'd been warned about Mom's "nervous condition." He lived in fear of upsetting her, and she played him like a squeezebox. She never mastered many coping skills, so she compensated by overdeveloping her manipulative muscles. I couldn't decide which of them was more deserving of a good throttling. Mom was so demanding, and full of unreasonable complaints and expectations. Rick was far too accommodating and quick to back down, thus encouraging her absurd behavior. After she died, he figured out that her "nervous condition" was OCD, and late in the book he takes ownership of his role as her enabler. Jean Russo didn't display the classic symptoms of OCD -- hand washing and the like. Her obsession was more expensive. She kept moving from city to city and state to state, essentially following Rick and his wife all over the country. Every time she decided to move again, it was up to Rick to find her an apartment she wouldn't bitch about, and then he'd pay all of her moving costs. This wasn't really a four-star read for me. Jean Russo was just too annoying. The repetitiveness of her demands and complaints and all her moving around got old. I'm rating generously because of the impeccable writing, and because of Rick Russo's honesty and courage in telling this story. There's no sentimentality here, and he's always gentle in his portrayal of his mother, even at her exasperating worst. Late in the book you can see a clear therapeutic benefit for Russo in writing about his mother and himself. If you've enjoyed Russo's novels, you'll discover here how he earned his impressive understanding of comic and tragic familial connections, and of the inner distress of conflicted characters. You'll also see how his hometown of Gloversville, New York served as the prototype for his fictional dying mill towns. Rating = 3.5 stars

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-04-23 18:04

    As with Isabelle Allende's memoirs, I was interested to see how much of real life Richard Russo used for his novels like Empire Falls and Nobody's Fool, especially since the most outrageous things generally turn out to be the true ones. In this case, Russo is heart-breakingly open about his early life in a dying upstate New York mill town, his ne'er do well gambler father, his devoted mother who is...too devoted and eventually diagnosed with OCD and crippling anxiety, his incredibly tolerant wife and the chaotic moves and dysfunctional family dynamics involved. Without being maudlin or exploitative, this is an eloquent look at how families warp themselves around a broken member and how that effects everyone long after the person is gone. In Russo's case, it also made him a sensitive and perceptive storyteller with a drive to make sense of difficult situations, an option his mother tragically never got.

  • Scott
    2019-05-01 20:30

    And so my major crush on Richard Russo continues. I'm not exactly sure why I like this guy's books so much. He's not a flashy writer, nor particularly chewy, and his novels, usually set in depressed rust-belt towns in upstate New York, don't exactly come at you with big new ideas about the human condition. And yet I've loved them all, for their heart, their generosity of spirit, and his talent for bringing people to life, whether in a few sentences or over the course of hundreds of pages. He also knows how to tell a story, how to pace the narrative, and because he treats his characters with so much respect, and clearly really likes these men and women, I guess I always feel like he likes ME, the reader, as well. Anyway, Elsewhere is Russo's memoir, told almost entirely within the context of his painful, infuriating, exhausting, and, of course, deeply loving, relationship with his mother, which sounds like it could be a tactical disaster, narrative-wise, and incredibly claustrophobic, especially considering how demanding, and frustrating, and, yes, completely fucking crazy his mother is, but it's not. Somehow Russo pulls it off. We begin in the small, depressed upstate New York town of Gloversville, once the "ladies glove" capital of the world, energized and flush with cash, though by the time Russo came along in the late 1950s things started changing fast, and for the worse, and it's been nothing but downhill since. A boarded-up downtown. Falling-down houses with residents on the brink of foreclosure (including Russo's relatives). Horrific, seasonal, low-paying jobs in road construction and tanneries. Hopelessness, drinking and abandonment. Russo's dad split when he was just a kid, popping in and out every few years, and so he, young Rick, became the entire focus of his mom's, the vivacious and lovely but terribly troubled Jean's, dreams and demands. Bad craziness, lasting decades and essentially taking Russo and his family hostage, especially his long-suffering and incredibly understanding wife Barbara, ensues. I kept asking myself how I would have handled such a needy, obsessive mother, who demands that every one of Russo life's decisions and changes include her, and often get sabotaged by her, and her demands, which increasingly lack any sort of sense. The answer: not nearly as well as he did. Russo fans should eat this up, as I did.

  • Linda
    2019-05-23 16:20

    So here's a memoir focused on a man's relationship with his mentally ill mother. You'd think it would be sad, depressing, frustrating. Not so. It's all about survival and resilience. True, some things don't get better: the author's hometown of Gloversville, NY, went downhill after the glove factories closed, much like my neighboring hometown of Amsterdam, NY, when the carpet mills moved out. Russo writes about the pollution and the disregard for workers' health, and the common identity and pride of place, lost when manufacturing left so many American towns in the mid-twentieth century. In that context, he gives us the story of his mother, Jean Russo, trying over and over again to reinvent her life. After her husband left, she was unable to break free of her parents and "live independently." It was a life's dream she was unable to realize without the constant help of the author. When I wrote Off Kilter, my own memoir about growing up in Amsterdam with an unhappy mother, I tried to show her tenacity and resilience, too, and can only hope I did it half as well as Russo. "What nourishes us in this life might be the very thing that steals that life away from us," he writes near the end, noting that his "paralyzing anxiety at the thought of returning home" is his mother's legacy. Gloversville is described so well in this memoir(and in his novels, by other names) it's hard to believe he wasn't there just the other day, and maybe that's because the place where we grew up remains a part of us always. Written with a novelist's sensitivity to the story hidden in every life, "Elsewhere" is a beautiful testament to love, survival and putting one foot in front of the other, just to see what happens next. Russo's message: even if we can't, in his mother's words, make "it all work out," we keep trying. That's what it all comes down to, for all of us.

  • Abby
    2019-04-24 16:14

    Russo is just sooooo good. This memoir really gives insight into his work. I love you Richard Russo. There, I said it.

  • Erika
    2019-04-25 17:29

    Do not waste your time reading this book.I read it like the dutiful son Russo, the author, is: because it is his mother who constantly asks him to take her places ("my son will do that", she always insists at the sight of assisted-living and nursing home shuttle buses), he does it. Because the author is someone who is nice, I thought, I should finish reading this book. But I didn't want to. It bugged me. Why would I want to read about a nagging old woman who insists on following her son across the country when he goes to college? I mean, that is just pure family dysfunction defined. Codependency, it's called.One of Russo's mother's defining features, he comes to realize, is her reason for reading books: as an escape. It's not literature or metaphors she is after; she doesn't need to relate to characters. No, she wants to escape from her miserable life of insisting she is "independent" -- and, she sometimes is, at a certain extent; we must give her credit for that. If you want to escape from your life, do not read this book, thinking it will be a nice memoir from a nice author. This book will pull you down, causing you to worry about your own mother and what you will do when she starts falling apart when she is older. Will you be your lap dog like Russo? Will you question yourself or wish you could have done things differently? Sure! But, who wants to READ about it? It's not a pretty picture; it's not tragic or beautiful; it's not even depressing or sad. It's just plain awful.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-16 19:19

    I’ve been a fan of Richard Russo since the late 80s/early 90s, back when I was a teen and read The Risk Pool. I love his hardscrapple blue color characters and in reading this memoir it’s clear where much of his literary inspiration comes from.This is mostly about his mother. She’s strong yet incredibly, frustratingly, annoyingly flawed. She had (undiagnosed) OCD but this is not really evident until the very end of the book after she’s already dead (no spoiler here, Russo’s an old guy himself) and the author looks back on many of the “quirks” that were sign of a bigger problem. I suspect he’s trying to have us match his realization, which was also at the end, still it felt like an after-the-fact kind of thing. Many of the (stellar) reviews mention his mother’s ailment and I thought many times while reading “I don’t see the OCD thing.” It wasn’t until she’s dead he basically lists everything that sort of diagnoses the problem, if you will. It made the whole thing read oddly.And much of the book is like this. It’s on the shorter side, and goes through the years quickly. At one point Richard is a young boy and a few pages later he’s a successful author with teenage daughters. I realize it’s more about their relationship than a memoir of Russo himself but it’s weird when he adds, as yet another side note later in the book (when he’s in his 50s or 60s), that he, back in the day, ended up with a pretty fierce gambling problem like his almost entirely absent father. Wait a minute?! You brushed over that time in your life with “I got some graduate degrees and met my wife” and this gambling problem is a pretty big deal especially when this whole book is about parenting, heritage, etc. What does it further say about parent-child relationships that while protecting, caring for, revolving his entire world around his mother, Russo veered so close to becoming his father? Yet this was all dropped in at the end like an old guy might tell you “I had a cat once, in college.”Russo’s wife, by the way, is a saint for putting up with the ultimate in mama’s boy relations. If you’re an eighteen you old and your mother quits her (very strong, very steady) job at GE to follow you to college and you don’t bat an eye, perhaps there’s still an umbilical cord involved. He does feel responsible for her for life, which is both sweet and messed up and not entirely his fault. It’s an interesting study in how a mother’s relationship with her child can subtly influence his or her life.

  • Rachel
    2019-05-12 17:20

    I was disappointed with Richard Russo’s memoir Elsewhere but I had difficulty articulating precisely why until I read Jane McDonnell’s Living to Tell the Tale. I’ll quote the introductory paragraph to her book in its entirety because it is inspirational:Writing is a second chance at life. Although we can never go back in time to change the past, we can re-experience, interpret and make peace with our past lives. When we write a personal narrative we find new meanings and, at the same time, we discover connections with our foremost selves. I think all writing constitutes an effort to establish our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disappointment. In fact, writing sometimes seems to me to be the only way to give shape to life, to complete the process which is merely begun by living. This is what is absent in Russo’s memoir. Instead Elsewhere is one more contribution to the genre of “crisis memoir”. Russo would be well-advised, as would we all, to reflect on the difference between honesty and confession as well as the difference between integrity and self-exposure. In McDonnell’s words, self-revelation without self-reflection is merely self-exposure. McDonnell also notes that a memoirist has no obligation to tell all when telling all is hurtful to others or one’s self.Russo is only partially at fault. His generation of writers value showing above reflection and critical analysis. He wouldn’t want anyone to accuse him of aspiring to do more than entertain an audience. However, the best memoirs, as McDonnell reminds us, bear witness to the universal as privately experienced.

  • Grandma Weaver
    2019-05-19 19:15

    Richard Russo is one of my avorite authors. I've read all of his books and loved all of them. This book is no exception. He calls it a memoir but it's mostly a book about his mother, who was to put it mildly, a handful. She was never happy with any situation she was in. It's also about Gloversville NY where he grew up. It was a factory town tanning leather and making gloves and other leather products. And not the garden spot of New York state. It was a hard and dangerous work with more of the town dying from lung problems and cancer than statistically probable. She did have big dreams for her son and they did come true. I'm not sure if it was because of her or in spite of her. But together they made it work. I can see where he got material for most of his fiction and because he is such a good author he has made the interesting novels from a hard hard life. I highly recommend this book as well as his others. I don't think you'll be disappointed. And I also suggest he should be a candidate for sainthood for being such an understanding son and more than him his wife Barbara. I still don't understand how she put up with his mother for 35 years. She's a better woman than me.

  • Judy
    2019-05-08 19:07

    I think that whenever I become concerned about my parenting skills, I should remember this book. Richard Russo writes movingly, and often hilariously, about Gloversville, New York, the small upstate town where he was raised, his parents, and the incredible bond that existed between Russo and his mother. Noting that "a mother gives us breath, but she can also suck away the oxygen", Russo traces the path that his life followed since leaving Gloversville when he was 18 years old. And his mother was present in all of those moves and she usually lived just a short distance away. As a child, Russo was taught by his mother, a single parent, to fear her "nervous condition" as she called it and as she followed her son and his family all over the United States, she required Russo to cater to her whims and demands--as excessive and exasperating as they were. It wasn't until after his mother's death that Russo came to understand that she suffered from OCD and that he was the enabler in her life. A painful read with moments of laugh out loud mirth.

  • Darlene
    2019-04-22 19:31

    'Nobody's Fool' written by Richard Russo is on the list of my favorite books and although I was aware that he based the towns and characters in his novels on his real-life hometown of Gloversville in upstate New York, I WAS curious about just what this memoir, 'Elsewhere' would add to what I already know. To my surprise, 'Elsewhere' didn't turn out to be a memoir after all.. at least, not in the traditional sense, not in the way I am used to. Instead, this book was about Richard Russo's mother, Jean. Having said that, I think it's important to add that because of the nature of their lives and their relationship, a book about JEAN Russo is by definition a book about Richard Russo. The two, for better or worse, were interconnected and their lives were intertwined in a big way until the end of Jean Russo's life. I've read several reviews that were written of this book and the consensus seems to be that Jean Russo struggled with mental illness throughout her life… what was whispered about by family members as 'nerves'. Richard hypothesized that his mother had had OCD and bouts of anxiety. I certainly don't know what the truth is and I don't have the credentials to determine whether Jean Russo was indeed mentally ill. All I can say is that I could relate to Richard's plight in many ways. When Richard was a young boy, his parents split up and he and his mother returned to her hometown of Gloversville, New York… an old mill town in serious decline. The two lived in an upstairs apartment in his grandparents' house. Although his mother did not drive, she caught a ride each day to her job at the General Electric plant in Schenectady. What seemed most important to Jean was that she live independently and she wanted everyone she knew to know she was an independent woman…. often pointing this out during disagreements to her parents who were quite aware that the independence she referred to was not exactly true. Richard's father was largely absent from his life growing up… he chose to spend much of his time in gambling pursuits. Throughout Richard's life, Jean Russo talked of little else but her desire to leave Gloversville. She seemed to feel that if she could just relocate ANY PLACE ELSE, she could have the life she felt she deserved. And throughout her life, whenever she became upset or anxious, she would declare to Richard.. "Don't I deserve a life?" In fact, that became a sort of mantra and it seemed to me that it became her way of controlling and perhaps manipulating her son to do as she wished.. to become an accomplice of sorts to her many whims. Eventually, Richard was grown and ready to go off to college. This too became Jean Russo's opportunity. Richard was preparing to leave for college in Arizona and he discovered that his mother was pulling up stakes and coming with him. She had simply quit her job at General Electric and although she vaguely mentioned a job at the General Electric plant in Arizona, it soon became clear that there in fact, WAS NO JOB. Her plans really went no further than to just escape her hometown. I was startled that this grown woman would undertake something so completely foolish, but it seemed her desperation to escape her life was greater than her common sense. Sadly, the same scenario seemed to continue to play out in Jean and Richard Russo's lives for the next 35 years. Richard married, obtained a Ph.D, started writing and publishing stories and books, started a family … and through it all. his mother continued to move around the country with him and his new family…. from Arizona to Pennsylvania, to Illinois, to Maine and finally to Massachusetts. With each move, both Jean and Richard were a little older and each time Jean seemed less and less able to cope. This left Richard (and his extremely patient wife) to scout out a new apartment for Jean (which she NEVER liked), hire a professional cleaning crew to thoroughly clean the new apartment before she moved in (as the apartments were NEVER clean), pay the movers and make up the cost difference between what the rent ACTUALLY was each month and what Jean's rent subsidy would cover. I have to admit that this book was awfully frustrating to read. I was constantly torn between feelings of annoyance with Jean and her demands AND Richard's inability to address the unreasonableness of these demands…. and compassion for what played out in both of their lives for such a long time. I suppose at this point I could say that Jean had serious problems she COULD NOT and WOULD NOT deal with and Richard DID seem to fill the role as her enabler. That is probably a true statement. But it also seems to me that I could say that Jean was a desperately unhappy woman for most of her life who seemed to suffer from the 'grass is always greener ELSEWHERE' syndrome. She believed that each new place would bring her happiness and the ability to FINALLY START her life… the life she kept reminding Richard that she deserved. The problem, it seems to me, was that she was so caught up in getting to the next destination that she became more and more isolated and failed to see and appreciate the goodness that she already possessed in her life. I found this story to be incredibly sad. Whether Jean's inability to cope with her life is because of mental illness… well, I can't say. It certainly seems that might have been the case. As for Richard, it seemed to me that he is like many children faced with a desperately unhappy parent …. he absorbed her unhappiness and took on himself the responsibility of trying to make her happy. This most likely was not exactly great for his OWN mental health. But perhaps it's possible that his life with his mother and his memories of Gloversville provided him with the material he has used so creatively in the richness of the characters readers find within his novels.

  • Larraine
    2019-05-20 15:27

    I almost didn't read this book. In fact, I got it out of the library and had to return it unread because I ran out of time. However, I got it out again and read it in a short time, and I'm glad I did. Russo has always been one of my favorite writers. His prose is wonderful. I love his subject matter - especially his books that are based on his hometown in upstate New York. This one is incredibly heart-wrenching. Russo comes from a small town called Gloverville, a place that was once well known for its glove making and other leather goods. He describes this town so well that I could imagine myself walking down its main street. Russo was raised by his single mother who first separated from and then divorced his father who had a serious gambling problem. He and his mother lived on the 2nd floor of a two family house owned by her parents. She constantly complained about wanting to be independent, but she went back to her parents for help many times. As she grew older, she relied more and more heavily on Russo not just for financial help, but also for her emotional needs as well. Yet despite all that Russo's childhood was far from unhappy. Surrounded by cousins and cushioned by his grandparents, he had an almost "leave it to Beaver" childhood - assuming that the "Beave's" mother had mental and emotional problems. As I finished this book, I found myself getting tears in my eyes. I'm at the age where my mother is at a time in her life when every day is precious and her time is dwindling. Russo writes so beautifully about his issues with his mother - and also his immense love and affection for her as well.

  • John Woltjer
    2019-05-05 17:28

    This was a good read. I have read "Straight Man" which was one of the few books I've ever read that made me laugh out loud. This memoir is a touching book about his very complicated relationship with his mother, who was rarely far from him geographically and never far away emotionally. There are huge gaps of time in this narrative, though there is a numbingly predictable dynamic to their relationship that would have made making the book more detailed, well, very numbing. The powerful revelation about the source of the dynamic comes towards the end of the book after she dies when he is confronted with the fact that his mother had a diagnosable, but treatable mental illness that he was simply too close to her to see. I very much appreciated the revelation that growing up in an objectively recognized, severely dysfunctional family situation can easily come to be seen as the norm because there is no "normal" to compare it to. The revelation hits Russo like a kick in the stomach, and only comes to him after a very early diagnosis of one of his young daughters, recently married, of the early stages of the illness that his mother lived a very long life with, virtually untreated. Whoever said that looking backwards one sees with 20/20 vision would certainly see that validated here. Well worth reading!

  • Kevin
    2019-05-02 21:26

    Ugh. What do you say about a book where on page 165 the narrator finally comes to the same conclusion that the reader has on page 20: "The biggest difference between my mother and me, I now saw clearly, had less to do with nature or nuture than with blind dumb luck" ? I'm clearly missing whatever gene allows people to accept chatter about real estate as interesting and unfortunately it is the organizing principle here. But even so, Russo seems insensible to the advantages that "blind dumb luck" brought him compared to his mother's generation or any generation that followed his. (I'm trying now to thing of another memoir by an American male who graduated high school in 1967 that does not mention Vietnam -- someone help me out here).This one belongs on the same low shelf as those other whiners for pay, Jeannette Walls and Augustin Burroughs -- which is too bad, because technically, he is a much better writer than those two.

  • Alice
    2019-05-19 15:31

    When we love our authors, we want every book they write to be a winner (see my review of Mark Helprin's latest as a case in point...). I was very interested in reading Richard Russo's latest -- a memoir -- because I thought Empire Falls, Nobody's Fool and Straight Man (three of his) were terrific. Perhaps I'm not a memoir fan, but I was disappointed in this one. I did not think it was up to his fiction standard of quality. First, as I've written in other reviews, this book needed an editor with a stronger hand. I think with 100 pages fewer it would have had the same effect, told the same story, and been more effective. I was beginning to flag about half-way through, thinking when will this end. Not what you want to be thinking when you read a book by a longtime favorite author. The story is compelling as Mr. Russo details his relationship with his mother. It is really her story, and he is generous and sensitive in how he relates what is essentially a sad remembrance. If you haven't read any of Mr. Russo's books, I would recommend Straight Man and then the other two mentioned above. If you are truly a fan of memoir, I would say give this one a try, but then go on to read Russo's fiction.

  • Peter
    2019-04-25 17:22

    Disclosure: I grew up in the city of Gloversville in upstate New York where Richard Russo–-six years my junior–-was born and raised and which plays a major role in this family memoir.A number of my Gloversville friends who read Elsewhere expressed disappointment and even anger over Richard Russo’s treatment of the city of their youth in Elsewhere, his family memoir. Reflecting on the Prologue, which is a shorter version of a piece published by Granta, the British literary magazine in 2010, they feel Russo focused on the negative side of the glove industry and ignored the benefits which accrued to the community, such as inexpensive housing, better than decent schools, public parks and recreation, a high number of doctors per capita, et al––benefits some of which remain long after the glove industry’s near total demise.While I’m in agreement that the glove industry balance sheet needs to consider the contributions it made to Gloversville as well as the negatives, I stand with Russo in stating that the cost was extremely high for those whose livelihood put them in harm’s way. Working in the glove industry––especially in the tanneries was extremely dangerous due to the use of toxic chemicals, but in addition to the healthcare issues, the exploitation of women who worked piece rate wages from their homes and the denigration of the skills of a generation of cutters who came over from Europe as described in Russo’s Granta article as well as in Herbert M. Engel’s study Shtetl in the Adirondacks (1991), the industry owners backed by the holders of political power in Fulton County used red-baiting and other vicious tactics to break the leather workers’ union locking them out of the shops in the winter of 1949-1950 and thereby reducing even further their economic straits. The cost of supporting one’s family by working in the glove industry increased dramatically after World War II, just as the industry was declining in the face of overseas competition.All that said, however, the focus of Elsewhere is truly not on Gloversville. It’s a book about Russo’s relationship with his mother, who while she had a love-hate relationship with Gloversville, would have had the same feelings if she lived in Amsterdam, Troy, Elmira or any of the other cities in the heartland of America’s 19th century industrial revolution, cities which by the mid-twentieth century were in rapid decline, their industrial bases gone resulting in the disappearance of opportunities for non-college educated workers. In her later years, Mrs. Russo often harked back to her job with the General Electric Company in Schenectady––to which she commuted from Gloversville. She often stated she wished she’d hadn’t left that job because of the status it imparted and the way that company treated their employees. To some extent she was deluding herself because employment at General Electric began to decline in the late 1960s as that company evolved away from production of turbines and other large industrial machinery to more technology driven fields such as medical research which means even had she stayed in Gloversville and not gone to Arizona with her son when he started college in 1967, she might have been let go as so many others were when GE closed buildings and offices in Schenectady.Elsewhere is not an easy read, as it is a story that does not have a happy ending. Certainly for people in the mental health field, it must be agonizingly to read about the trauma inflicted by the deteriorating mental health of this woman on her son and his family. Truth be told it is likely that many families could share similar stories as recognition and treatment of the condition Mrs. Russo suffered was rare in those days and the kind of help she received¬¬––mainly medications that deadened her senses––only temporarily hid symptoms rather than addressed the underlying cause. Only when Russo learns that one of his daughters is afflicted with similar behavior does he learn that obsessive-compulsive disorder is a treatable condition.One of the characteristics of Richard Russo’s novels that makes them so popular is the humane treatment of his characters. There are few if any truly evil people in his stories––nor are there paragons of perfection. Compassion doesn’t mean Russo ignores the seedier sides of life; it just means he shows us the heroic can exist in the midst of decline. In Elsewhere, he doesn’t blame Gloversville for his mother’s condition; it merely served as a convenient excuse when she lived there as a place that didn’t allow her to have a life.For Gloversville, the battle continues. Heroic efforts have been put forth by some, resulting in good things in face of great obstacles. When you drive down Main Street in 2013 you will see a thriving food coop, for example, which offers healthy foods at reasonable prices. You’ll also see empty buildings and you may notice people who seem to have walked off the pages of Russo’s novels.Let’s hope this city continues to inspire Russo to help us understand our neighbors and ourselves while its residents continue the good fight to restore the kind of community where each person has a chance to make the life they desire.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-18 16:12

    My only regret about reading this book is that I didn't dive in sooner. I had read only one other Russo book and found it depressing. I imagined a memoir focused on his mother's death would be über depressing. But I couldn't escape review after review praising it. So I gave in and got it on tape. Read by Russo, this book is anything but depressing. It's sad sometimes, sure, and occasionally it's frustrating, but mostly, it's engaging. Russo pities his mother and the residents of his down-and-out hometown, but never himself. He manages to tell his story with enough detachment to give himself credibility and enough emotion to make him relatable. In telling the story of his and his mother's intertwined lives, Russo shows rather than tells us what life was like in a small, struggling town with a larger-than-life, struggling Mom. His story takes us across the country and back, always focusing tightly on his topic. By the end, I too forgave her erratic behavior and overbearing neediness. I think we all fear the legacy we'll leave our children, who know our every flaw and suffer for our every weakness. Would that we were all lucky enough to receive the grace delivered so eloquently by Russo.

  • Carol
    2019-04-26 22:26

    I really liked this book -- many reviewers did not like it because it dealt too much with his mother and felt he (Russo) catered too much to her throughout her life. The book was a memoir and his mother was a constant in his life since she was a single mom and had what would today be diagnosed as OCD, among other emotional disabilities. I felt he (and his wife) were saints in his mother's life. They protected her and cared for her and never abandoned her. I somehow got the impression from reading other reviews that they should have kicked her out of a car along the side of the road somewhere and never looked back. How fortunate she was to have such a wonderful son and daughter-in-law, And, in spite of all her mental issues, she loved her son so very much.It was a beautiful story in every way. I truly admire this author and his family.

  • Karen
    2019-05-03 16:12

    I rated this book 3 stars as an average of the writing (4 stars) and the content (2 stars).I read and agree with many many of the comments on this page. The work reflects Russo's wonderful writing style which I've enjoyed in so many of his books. But 35 years of a difficult mother weighed me down. Maybe it was cathartic for the writer, but it's hard on the reader. The book did succeed with making me very grateful that mental illness doesn't run in my family, and that I have siblings to help share any load. I also agreed with those who commented that this isn't really a memoir, but he admits that he called it that because he didn't know what else to call it. My beef with the "memoir" tag is that the book is not about his life, it's about his mother's life. And that's not the same thing.

  • Brennan
    2019-04-25 17:16

    I really did not like this book at all. I thought I would love it - seeing that is a memoir of my favorite author. But Russo tells us very little about himself. Rather, the entire memoir is about his mother. Forgive me, but I really have no interest in reading about this woman's insecurities and co-dependence on every page. I wanted to know more about the man who wrote Straight Man and who crafted the brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning novel Empire Falls. But all you get on every page, is a lot of talk about his mother. It seems to me that Russo chould have written a more powerful memoir, but I guess since she dominated his life so much, that was his life. Even so, don't read this book, it is a sure miss.

  • Terri
    2019-05-23 18:10

    Billed as a memoir, this volume felt more like a 'study' ... of R. Russo's mother, an extremely difficult but strong personality who held pride of place in his life, apparently relegating his wife and children somewhat to the background. I was very much hoping it would be a memoir reflecting on growing up in an upstate new year small town, much like the settings of his excellent novels, so was disappointed. I give the author all credit for spending the majority of his life beholden to this OCD parent (and even more to his wife in putting up with it), but didn't enjoy sharing in his memories. I look forward, nonetheless, to his next novel.

  • Lorraine
    2019-05-17 21:30

    I picked up this audiobook because Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors. I quickly found that the book was not a typical memoir. Elsewhere was an eloquent, heartfelt and, ultimately, very sad ode to his mother. Russo is an only child who was raised by a single mother who had undiagnosed anxiety and OCD. She lived into her 70s and she trailed Russo as he moved around the country as a young adult and, finally, to where he and his family settled in Maine. He was her lifeline, helping her navigate an increasingly demanding and difficult life as her impairments increased. She was an extremely disruptive presence in his and his family's lives.Russo grew up in Gloversville, NY, a town both he and his mother were keen to leave. The descriptions of the leather tanning process and the jobs that people had was eye opening and, at times, truly gross. Russo realized in hindsight that his desire to leave was good for his health since working in the leather factories or simply living in the town and drinking the contaminated water caused many people to develop cancer and die at a young age. Although he had several generations of an extended family in Gloversville, he left town and never looked back.The end of the book was very powerful. One of Russo's adult daughters was diagnosed with OCD and anxiety. When he and his wife learned more about both conditions, he realized that the symptom check lists were comprehensive descriptions of his mother's behaviors. He also recognized some of his mother's traits that had such a detrimental effect on her life also were reflected in his life but served a useful purpose for a career in writing. He also muses about the role of fate in both his personality traits and a decision to leave Gloversville at age 18.Elsewhere was one of the most thoughtful memoirs that I have read. It also was one of the most sad, detailing the high price of untreated mental illness for his mother and her immediate family. Russo was the master of "show, don't tell" and his storytelling abilities truly make the book come alive.

  • Ellin
    2019-04-27 15:14

    I liked this book and read it in one sitting. I’ve enjoyed the author’s earlier fiction; That Old Cape Magic comes to mind. I decided to read his memoir before realizing it was primarily the story of his relationship with his needy mom. Needy as in NEEDY as in she moved with him when he went off to college.The book was alternately amusing, frustrating, thought-provoking and sad. For anyone who has to deal with a needy parent, this may hit too close to home; on the other hand, they may take some comfort that they are not alone.From an NPR article: "Of his own decision to attend the University of Arizona, Russo writes: "I expected my mother to put up stiff resistance to this plan; after all, I'd be twenty-five hundred miles away and her mantra had always been that we were a team, that as long as we had each other, we'd be able to manage. So I should have been suspicious when she didn't object to my heading west. But even if I'd twigged to the possibility that she was up to something, I never would've grasped the obvious inference, and it was years before it occurred to me that maybe the westward-ho notion hadn't been mine at all, that she'd steadily been dropping hints — for example, that the best place to study archeology, my current interest, was the Desert Southwest — and that I'd dutifully been lapping them up. Nor did she object when, in the spring of my senior year I announced I wanted to buy a car. "The reason she didn't, of course, was that we'd need one. Because she was coming with me."For anyone interested, here is the link to the NPR article and interview with the author:

  • Janet
    2019-05-11 23:21

    I had never read Richard Russo but I had thought about it several times, especially after seeing him last year at the Tucson Festival of Books. A friend of mine, who is a New Yorker, is a fan, mostly I thought because Russo too is a native New Yorker and writes about New York. I confess to having something of a love relationship with that great place myself even though I wasn't born and raised there. I picked up the audio of this book at the library thinking that it was a memoir of his life. It is not.This is the story of Richard Russo's indomitable mother, who was also mentally ill... an obsessive compulsive, although he did not realize it until after her death and his own child's diagnosis with same. As someone who has mental illness in the family, I found this retrospective fascinating and I was surprised to find so many similiarities between my own background and that of the author.Gloversville, NY is the kind of blue collar mill town that sucks the life out of you. I grew up in that kind of town and like Russo and his mother, I couldn't wait to leave. I now live in Arizona and the author's wife is from here and they lived here for a time.Russo narrates the book himself and unlike many authors who try to read their own work, he actually does an admirable job of it.Beyond the many identifications I made with the author, I found Russo's writing style to be both easy and thought provoking so maybe it is time for me to sample his fiction. I just realized that I have a book of his short stories and I did actually read one of them and enjoyed it so now I'm thinking...novel.

  • Ruth Harper
    2019-04-25 20:14

    We all knew that Empire Falls was a real place, and in this book we encounter the actual Gloversville. The theme of this story is less about place, however, than person -- that person being Russo's enigmatic, eccentric mother. In "Elsewhere" we witness yet another example of a child not knowing more than his own reality and deeming it normal, when in fact it is more than a bubble off typical. Russo's acceptance of and devotion to his mother is phenomenal; even more amazing is his wife's willingness to live within the confines of a highly unusual mother/son relationship. If she ever complained to a friend that her mother-in-law was crazy (no evidence that she did), well, she'd be right. The hugely powerful element of this book arrives at the end, when, as a result of his daughter's diagnosis, Russo experiences the forceful "aha" of realizing that his mother suffered with the same disorder. He seems to judge himself harshly for not figuring out what would have been pretty much impossible for him to realize. I did wonder whether friends or relatives or colleagues might have given Russo hints along the way that he was dealing with a situation that cried out for professional intervention. (That said, Russo's father let him know that his mother was "nuts" and his father-in-law seemed quite aware of a significant problem.) As always, Russo's writing is simply and honestly beautiful. I put the book down with a hope that he can become less self-critical and that his daughter will have access to the kind of help her grandmother desperately needed.

  • Heidi
    2019-05-10 18:26

    Richard Russo makes his difficult mother his psychology project (I suspect many difficult mothers end up there) and in the process finds catharsis, crushing insight, and good old guilt (lots of the latter). He documents for us his pattern of putting his mother’s needs before his own or his family’s needs, and tracks the minutiae of her life—her moods and meltdowns, her questions and anxieties, her disappointments and compulsions—providing us with a detailed case study that only a son devoted to his mother, or afraid of his mother, or cast in his mother’s likeness, would undertake. I initially thought Russo was building up to making Gloversville, the now-defunct town that once met the world’s need for fine leather gloves, a major metaphor in the memoir, but: wrong. Russo believes he could have saved his mother but Gloversville he deems unsalvageable. I have mixed feelings about this book, but recognize I have no right to judge Russo’s experience and how he interprets it. His story is sacredly personal. He is courageously transparent about himself and his journey, and the writing is fine.My moment of sympatico with this story is what Charles Dickens said: “…every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” We live with people and know them so intimately and for so long that we’re blinded to the big picture.

  • Cheri
    2019-04-30 19:28

    I've enjoyed Richard Russo's novels, some more than others, but reading his memoir didn't really anything new, anything I hadn't expected. I think some writers follow the adage to write about that which they know, and I think it might have been Richard Russo who gave that advice (only he's not nearly old enough). He's the kind of person I could see - providing you had more than a book buying relationship with - calling him up and saying "we're going to be in the area" and being invited to come on over and sit around his yard with a bucket filled with bottles of beer for the adults and sodas for the kids, maybe some burgers on the grill. Richard Russo personifies "home," and it doesn't really seem to matter where home is, New York is just another state (although I happen to be partial to it.) That's what "Elsewhere" was like to me. A few visits through the years, maybe once or twice stopping by to visit his folks even though you knew he wasn't going to be there. Someone that's always a pleasure to hang out with no matter if something special is planned, or not. So, here's my thank you note: Dear Richard Russo, Thank you for inviting me and mine over. I enjoyed spending time with your family, with everyone. You always make me laugh, and sometimes maybe shed a tear or two, but damn it was good to see you again. I hope the next time isn't such a long time away....

  • Daniel Jr.
    2019-05-19 17:08

    A strange story about Russo's all-consuming relationship with his mother, whose OCD spiral demanded that she live with or near him for the duration of her life--beginning with his move from upstate NY to Arizona for college. As a native of the Mohawk Valley, I wanted to hear a lot more about his growing up, something in the way of a traditional memoir, but that's not this book, not exactly. (Though we get a somewhat satisfying meditation on Thomas Wolfe's famous line about going home again toward the end of the book.)There are several devastating passages I won't likely forget any time soon: one was about his mother resetting all the clocks, trying to turn the hands backward in a fit of dementia. Another details (through his cousin Greg's retelling) the inside of the tannery in Gloversville and the severe cumulative effects of the dangerous chemicals on the workers. It is vivid and specific and offers a glimpse at Russo's most powerfully compassionate fictional passages.Passages like those whet my appetite for another multi-generational tome, especially since I was (mostly) disappointed in THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC, Russo's most recent novel. I am biased, of course, but I hope he returns to upstate NY one last time, to work out whatever's left.

  • Beverley Rochford
    2019-05-11 23:22

    I'm not sure why I chose to read this book -a memoir (outside my usual genre) but I was drawn into the concept of "elsewhere" and "mother attachments".You have to stick to the end of the narrative if you want some satisfaction from the memoir - most of the book is a repetitive recount of each of his mother's "moves" around the country following her son and the son "saintly" at her beck and call all through the chronicle of their life. We learn very little about his mother or the author as individual persons- Russo sticks to his theme and analysis (which he only comes to realize after her death) that his mother had OCD and that they interwove each other's lives around that pattern of behaviour which he did not recognize as mental illness.I recommend the book for those who understand that innate need to escape the town of our childhood looking "elsewhere" to fulfill our lives and to those wanting some introspection on mother-child relationships.As for the author's writing style in this book, I feel it was a deliberate choice to mimic the repetativeness of OCD into the narrative which I'm glad I was able to get through (almost ditched the book halfway) because I think he does shed some insightful thoughts in the latter part of the book.