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Mohawk by Richard Russo

Mohawk (1986)

by Richard Russo

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Mohawk. Richard Russo. 1986. This book has been in my “to be read” bookcase for years and years, and I a mad at myself for waiting so long to read it. Russo is a marvelous writer; he reminds me of Wallace Stegner. His characters come alive, and he makes you feel their misery and what little happiness they have as most of them lead lives of “quiet desperation.” This is the story of sad people in a dying town, written with grace and style. ( )
  judithrs | Feb 26, 2014 |
I read Richard Russo's first book , Mohawk, after having read several of his newer titles. I admire Russo's story telling style and his great characterization . Empire Falls was the first book I read and I was hooked. I went back to read Mohawk mainly because I grew up in the area Russo writes about and I know the small village life. Mohawk is definitely the beginning of where Russo goes as an author and storyteller. It is not my favorite but in context with his later books, I am glad I read it. ( )
  librarian1204 | Oct 10, 2013 |
I fell in love with the works of Richard Russo when I read his Pulitzer Prize winning "Empire Falls". Since then, I've read most of what he has written; and to varying degrees loved it all. My favorites, in addition to Empire, are "Nobody's Fool", and a book I recently read called "Mohawk". Mohawk is the first book Russo ever wrote. If you know Russo at all, you know that his books read like a bluesy Bruce Springsteen song. They tend to be about a small blue collar town where the town's main employer has been polluting the air and water for years, and is edging ever closer to bankruptcy. And as the employer goes (in Mohawk the employer is a tannery) so goes the town. Russo examines the lives of the people who stay in such a dying town. Why do they stay? What is the story of their Glory Days, and how do they cope with the loss of those days? And is the tannery a villain for sucking the townspeople dry, and leaving them with nothing but a poison river, or a hero for giving many years of a break-even economy to an otherwise destitute townspeople? Mohawk was a very enjoyable and thought provoking book. ( )
  richard.thurman | Mar 31, 2013 |
I enjoyed this book a lot! Quirky characters in a quirky upstate New York town, most of them remarkably believable. A sad tale with in a style that actually leaves you feeling good.....normal folks living in situations not necessarily of their liking, but making the best of it and ultimately finding a path to some sort of peace.....yay Russo. I liked 'Nobody's Fool' and i really liked this....looking forward to more. ( )
  jeffome | Oct 3, 2012 |
This book challenged me to ask myself what comprises a "good book".

On the one hand, the part of me that majored in English in college loved every delicious page of this well-crafted work. Superb character sketches, insightful themes (can true love be wrong? are our lives directed by fate or self-will? why do we remain loyal to our mistakes? why do we seek to rationalize that which is inherently irrational?), some imaginative symbolism, the author's honest, graceful voice and technical skill - especially the way Russo paces the novel so that information & insights emerge organically, in the context of the story rather than via awkward expository text - kept me on my toes throughout the story, grinning with scholarly pleasure each time a plot deftly wrapped in on itself or a particularly ingenious turn of phrase suddenly illuminated a theme or universal truth. I love, too, that Russo doesn't condescend to his readers, trusting us to make inferences and recognize themes and to spot irony without hitting us over the head with it.

On the other hand, the reader in me craved something more ... filling. Characters that change and grow rather than remaining fixed points. (I recognize that this is a major theme of the story, but that doesn't make it any more satisfying.) A plot dominant enough to unite and give purpose to the fragmented, endlessly intersecting strands of storyline. Conflicts that rise above - or at least make more noble/meaningful - the everyday conflicts of duty, loyalty, selfishness, desire & honor that shape these characters' lives. This story simply doesn't stand up when it comes to capturing the reader's imagination - or heart.

I haven't yet read Empire Falls, but if Russo ever figures out how to blend his technical brilliance with characters & a story that capture the reader's attention and empathy, he is destined to become a formidable literary figure. I get English major goosebumps just thinking about it! ( )
2 vote Dorritt | Jul 2, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679753826, Paperback)

The town of Mohawk may be provincial but it's far from sleepy. Its inhabitants seem perpetually awake, and not only on Saturday at two in the morning, "when the bars are closing and people are forced to consider the prospect of returning home with so many of the night's dreams unfulfilled." Richard Russo focuses on several characters who are leading lives of extreme--and extremely funny--longing. Dallas Younger, for instance, hit his peak playing high-school football, and it's been downhill from there. He has no idea what women, particularly his ex-wife, are thinking, which makes him really glad there are none in on the local poker game. And he's still at a loss to figure out why he has no relationship with his son (probably something to do with the fact that he never sees him). Even the calendar at the local grill is for 1966, since the owner figures "the months are the same" and being a few days out of whack doesn't matter. This same man has a private betting system. Choosing among the top jockeys isn't that hard--he tries to assess their current levels of pride, concentration, and desire. Richard Russo shows us that these same qualities exist in his hard-luck characters.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:52 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Mohawk, New York, is one of those small towns that lie almost entirely on the wrong side of the tracks. Its citizens, too, have fallen on hard times. Dallas Younger, a star athlete in high school, now drifts from tavern to poker game, losing money, and, inevitablym another set of false teeth. His ex-wife, Anne, is stuck in a losing battle with her mother over care of her sick father. And their son, Randall, is deliberately neglecting his school work because in a place like Mohawk is doesn't pay to be too smart.… (more)

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