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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Mohawk by Richard Russo

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

November 26, 2003

Some writers manage near-perfection on the first try, other take some practice--Russo is in the latter category and it shows in "Mohawk". The novel is not put together well at all; there are too many characters and too much going on in the story. It's a big disappointment after reading "Nobody's Fool" and "Empire Falls", but "Mohawk" is really where Russo started.

There's no one story; every person in the town of Mohawk, New York has some sort of story. They all sort of interconnect, though I never thought the overall plot went much farther than to demonstrate the complexity of a small town. It would take too much time to go through and detail every sidebar story in the novel.

That is the problem in a nutshell--too much stuff going on. Some of the characters like Dallas Younger and his sister-in-law are just extraneous and don't serve much purpose. Everyone from the diner owner to the bookie gets their life story detailed and in the end that's what makes it hard to discern any actual story; "Mohawk" is really a series of character sketches. The problem is that with so many characters, it's hard to pick out one or two to really care about.

When I said earlier this story isn't put together well, I mean it really isn't put together well. Sometimes a chapter will have a couple paragraphs in the present, then flashback and not come back to the present until the next chapter. Other times there's a flashback for an entire chapter that really doesn't have anything to do with what was going on in the rest of the book. Then some chapters are only a page or two. The dialogue is strong in some parts, but clunky in others. A lot of events are skimmed over--one character dies with little explanation, while another has some kind of illness that I think she recovered from, but the detail was sketchy. There's also a needlessly high body count near the end of the book.

My honest opinion is that this book is a mess and Russo would have done better to keep it hidden away to never see the light of day. If you're a Russo fan it's interesting to make comparisons between characters like Dallas Younger and the fathers in "Empire Falls" and "The Risk Pool" as well as Sully in "Nobody's Fool" or Randall Younger and the sons in "Risk Pool" and "Nobody's Fool" and the daughter in "Empire Falls". If you've never read Russo before, I would recommend any of those books and to just skip this one.

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