1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
August 18, 2002
If you have a healthy relationship with your parents, then you'll probably think The Risk Pool is the most unrealistic book ever written. However, if your family more resembles the Simpsons than the Cleavers, you'll be able to sympathize with Ned Hall's strained relations with his parents.
Basically Ned's mom cracks up after her relationship with Ned's dad Sam falls apart and a failed affair with a Catholic priest. The result is that even after she gets out of the mental asylum, Ned has to feed her a steady stream of overly-optimistic lies to keep her from falling apart. Sam, on the other hand, is not really a bad guy, but he's no saint either. He gambles, drinks too much, gets into fights, but he's not dangerous. Ned goes from an altar boy when living with his mother to a petty thief while living with his father after his mom's nervous breakdown. Ultimately, Ned leaves home and ends up in NYC as a book editor, trying to not become like his father.
Much like "Empire Falls", Russo's Pulitzer-winning novel that came out over a decade after "Risk Pool", there is a set of well-imagined, very fleshed-out characters which makes a poorly-defined story extremely entertaining. Russo leaves the reader to make their own conclusions about the purpose of the story, which is kind of annoying if you aren't up to the task.
While not the best-written book, The Risk Pool is a funny, engrossing novel that will keep you reading and leave you wanting more at the end. I highly recommend it.