A friend of mine says his most favorite book of all time is Straight Man by Richard Russo.
I read it and enjoyed it. My writing teacher/mentor often mentions the movie Nobody’s Fool when she talks about character development. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Richard Russo.
A couple of weeks ago I was browsing in a bookstore. Which, by the way, is getting harder and harder to do, but I digress. I picked up a copy of That Old Cape Magic by Russo. I read the inside flap and decided to give it a shot.
I expected to love it.
I loved parts of it. I loved the writing.
The contemporary story never grabbed me. I kept reading because I liked the main character’s backstory and reading about his childhood and his atrocious parents.
Jack Griffin and his wife attend a wedding on Cape Cod, the place where Griffin’s academician parents took him every summer. His father is recently deceased and Griffin can’t seem to get over it and let his father go. Figuratively and literally, since he’s driving around with an urn of ashes in the trunk of his car.
A year passes. Another Cape wedding. Griffin’s eyes are opened to just how much of an influence his parents had on him.
I really did like the backstory portions. They came alive in both Griffin’s and his mother’s voices. She was a piece of work.
I’ve read other criticism that Russo’s female characters aren’t fully developed and sure enough, Joy Griffin, Jack’s wife, felt as real as a paper doll and about as substantial. His mother was real, but she was … ummm … well, I can’t say what she is in a family blog.
If you’ve read other Russo work, I’d say give That Old Cape Magic a try. If you’re new to Russo, start with Straight Man. It’s better.