The Risk Pool is a beautiful story about the struggles of a young man, trying to raise himself in the midst of two parents who are incapable of doing it themselves. The characters in this book are rendered in full – we are given glimpses into the good, the bad and the ugly about their lives. In so many instances in our lives, we are quick to judge – we condemn the choices, actions, appearance, behavior and opinions of others. In a world lived through the TV lens – we are seldom introduced to people outside the mainstream. TV provides a two dimensional perspective of the world – everyone is rich, everyone is beautiful, everyone is young, everyone has fake boobs, everyone has plastic surgery and everyone has a great life.
Except on reality TV, where they show us the “real” lives of the truly dysfunctional. The sad truth is that these shows are not real. They are scripted, produced, manipulated and directed to be entertaining – they encourage outrageous behavior, audacious personalities and shocking actions. These become the two primary perspectives we have of people – via TV – they are either great looking and successful or they are highly dysfunctional.
TV news shows us a third group – these are the lost souls that are interviewed whenever there is a shooting in the inner city or a plane crash in Oklahoma. These are the fractured remnants of the “lower class” – often looking, speaking and acting very different from what we are accustomed.
Real people don’t exist on TV. Real people only exist in the real world. Richard Russo provides a crystal clear picture of the people who inhabit the world outside the TV lens. These are the people who didn’t go to college, live in the town they were born in, are focused on surviving today not planning for their retirement in Florida – they shop (and work) at Wal-Mart and live a much different life that the suburban/urban TV producers and viewers.
The Risk Pool is a stellar, multi-dimensional perspective of characters that live on the fringe. No one is all good or all bad. We often make decisions about people based on how they talk, look, act or live – we are suspect of those who don’t “do it all” the way we do. Suburbanization has caused homogenization – we all want to cluster with others who are just like us. As time goes by, we insulate ourselves further and further in pools of “likeness.” We judge, condemn and classify all others.
All men go through the same experiences, fears, challenges, doubts and struggles. Regardless of demographics, our pains are shared. The Risk Pool will open your eyes to men who live hard, love deeply, screw up regularly, violate normal behavior – but in so doing, reveal their hearts – and yours.
Be Strong. Stay Hungry. Walk Tall.