As the author of novels such as Straight Man and Nobody’s Fool, Richard Russo has established himself as a reliable chronicler of both the incorruptible and the venal aspects of human nature. He’s also demonstrated a special sympathy for outsiders: in his new memoir, that affinity takes on an excruciatingly personal tone. Conveying his loving, yet frequently tortured, relationship with his late mother, Russo vividly relates the burdens of caring for the elderly, as well as the accompanying fantasies of freedom.
The trouble starts when Russo’s mother decides to leave behind a stable job in order to relocate with him to Arizona, as the aspiring author heads to college. As the years go by, her anxiety increases, leading to frightening episodes of panic-driven meltdown; but rather than seek care, she decides to rely on self-medication and her son’s attention.
Ultimately, Elsewhere represents both the author’s profound love and anger, a painful duality given additional weight by his mother’s recent death. Elizabeth Nelson