I listened to Nobody's Fool while driving a rented moving van across country and regretted only that I was by myself and had no one else to laugh with, cry with, commiserate with, or just plain hug when it ended. I've read a few of Richard Russo's books and I don't understand why he doesn't have a statue on the Washington Mall. Must be only because he is still alive. Of all his books, Nobody's Fool is, by far, my favorite. And Sully, the main character, is, to my mind, an American hero. A beat up aging contractor, (with whom, in full disclosure, I can truly identify) who just can't bring himself to take shit from anybody. He's not violent (well, maybe a little), he's not vengeful (well, maybe a little), he's not mean (really), but he just has to do what he has to do. Problem is, he screws up a lot. In fact, he screws up most of the time. But we keep pulling for him because, despite being an asshole, he is lovable as hell.
I keep trying to find another character in literature to compare him with but, to Russo's credit, Sully is a dead-on original. He will be overlooked by academia and the literati because he is no Raskolnikov or Jean Valjean or Captain Ahab, but he is a true working class hero. Russo's empathy for Sully and his razor sharp and yet gentle wit bring Sully to life against the backdrop of a depressed, upper NY state town and the characters that only such an environment can produce. Sully manages to ride roughshod over most of them, including, or more precisely, especially, his own dysfunctional family, and maintain their friendship at the same time.
The plot is secondary and there is no point in rehashing it here. If you enjoy the foibles of humanity and the depth of characters who have eternal hope in the face of one failure after another, the citizens of North Bath, NY will entertain you through the laughter and tears of their long, slow slog through their gray, endless winter days.