So this is my third or fourth Russo and not my favorite. It did not surprise me to discover that it is his first novel, as some pieces were too overt and convenient for my liking.
This novel again deals with the politics and relationships in a small northeastern town (this time in New York). There are similarities to Empire Falls (father/daughter relationships, central diner characters) as well as to Nobody's Fool (I had a hard time thinking of Dallas as distinct from Sully). Instead of find this repetition boring, I enjoy the familiarity that is found in the covers of Russo's books. Part of the repetition and his worship of the mundane is what makes his writing great.
Occasionally, I found the language to be a bit over the top: "Diana had majored in circumspection and graduated at the head of the class" was one sentence that made me cringe for example. The conversation between Rory and BG just before Rory is shot was similarly too overt and contrived. In fact, the plot was so contrived in the end (especially since Harry's new wife turned out to be none other than Rory's sister-in-law) as to almost make me want to reduce my rating to 3 star. Everything just tied together too well and in a way that I don't remember finding in his later novels.
I was also annoyed at the repetition in the second part. It seemed like Russo had written it first (almost) and so rather than just continue on with the story, there were several chapters at the beginning of the second part in which he reintroduced main characters as if we had forgotten who they were in the twenty intervening pages since they had last been mentioned.
There were several good comments on the state of human emotions and relationships:
"She was one of the few people who seemed to know that he had feelings to hurt. They weren't, he had to admit, regular and predictable like other people's feelings; they came and went in ways that Dallas himself didn't being to comprehend."
"Perfection rankled just about everyone, including the teachers, whereas mediocrity made people feel comfortable."
"But it was change he longed for, and he often thought that in an ideal world people would change their personalities every decade or so, possibly learning something to boot."
Overall it is a good read (as Russo reliably tends to be) and is for me almost a "comfort book". Easy, compelling, thoughtful and entertaining.