The Pulitzer Prize For Fiction

2002 - Richard Russo

Born: 15 July 1949; Johnstown, NY; USA

Awarded for: "Empire Falls"

Prize Motivation: "Awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Empire Falls. His novels Empire Falls, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool and Straight Man as well as his short story collection, The Whore's Child, are available in Vintage paperback."

Field: Fiction


Books Written By Richard Russo

About Richard Russo

Richard Russo (born July 15, 1949) is an American novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and teacher.

Russo was born in Johnstown, New York, and raised in nearby Gloversville. He earned a Bachelor's degree, a Master of Fine Arts degree, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Arizona, which he attended from 1967 through 1979.

He was teaching in the English department at Southern Illinois University Carbondale when his first novel, Mohawk, was published in 1986. Much of his work has been semi-autobiographical, drawing on his life from his upbringing in upstate New York to his time teaching literature at Colby College (subsequently retired).He now lives and writes in Camden, Maine.

Six years after the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Richard Russo returns with a novel that expands even further his widely heralded achievement.

Louis Charles ("Lucy") Lynch has spent all his sixty years in upstate Thomaston, New York, married to the same woman, Sarah, for forty of them, their son now a grown man. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though he's had plenty of reasons not to be—chief among them his mother, still indomitably alive. Yet it was her shrewdness, combined with that Lynch optimism, that had propelled them years ago to the right side of the tracks and created an "empire" of convenience stores about to be passed on to the next generation.

Lucy and Sarah are also preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy, where his oldest friend, a renowned painter, has exiled himself far from anything they'd known in childhood. In fact, the exact nature of their friendship is one of the many mysteries Lucy hopes to untangle in the "history" he's writing of his hometown and family. And with his story interspersed with that of Noonan, the native son who'd fled so long ago, the destinies building up around both of them (and Sarah, too) are relentless, constantly surprising, and utterly revealing.

Bridge of Sighs is classic Russo, coursing with small-town rhythms and the claims of family, yet it is brilliantly enlarged by an expatriate whose motivations and experiences—often contrary, sometimes not—prove every bit as mesmerizing as they resonate through these richly different lives. Here is a town, as well as a world, defined by magnificent and nearly devastating contradictions.


Empire Falls - Richard Russo

By Mrs. J.K. Massey

This was the first book I've read by Richard Russo, but I'm determined it won't be my last. I savoured every moment of it - some parts I even read twice. For the most part, the book carries the reader along out of curiosity: the characters are somehow real, whole, familiar. I kept reading about their everyday life just because I felt I wanted to know what would happen between them all. I wasn't gripped by the storyline, I was gripped by the characters and the atmosphere, it felt like I was there with them. It's only in the final chapters of the novel that the storyline takes a huge leap into the dramatic, and suddenly you realise that Russo had been building to this all along. There is nothing predictable about this book. It is beautifully engineered and satisfying to read - and entirely worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it won. Really, really recommended.

Empire Falls - Richard Russo

By Rachelle Walker

I only found out about halfway through that this novel beat The Corrections to the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. Reading it, I can see why. Whilst I love The Corrections, this is... more. It's one of those enveloping books that, despite the occasional character who's a bit... archetypal (the Good Man, the Manipulative Crone). I have a hard time really explaining why I like it (indeed, why I like most things), but it rings (mostly) true, it is rich with the conflict of human life, the struggle against the tide of life where most things seem futile, really, and no action or inaction is right or wrong, just varying degrees of arguable. People muddle through and do the thing they think is best at the time, for their own [variously] mad, rational, incomprehensible, petty reasons. Like, of course, life.

If anything, you don't get to spend *enough* time with the characters, cause this is quite a lengthy book and there are quite a few of 'em. But they're a fascinating bunch. Russo writes incredibly well, with a kind of poetic realism, and is very intelligent about people's motivations and the kind of emotional scrapes they allow themselves to get into. His perceptions and illuminations vis a vis his characters were, for me, the cherry on this cake.

The whole thing is excellent from beginning to [fantastic] end. (Which could have gone very wrong, but didn't, being handled so well, with no exploitativeness/trashiness/triteness (whatever). I would recommend it completely - it's gone on my List.