Enjoy millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more

Only $11.99/month after trial. Cancel anytime.

Marriage Story

Marriage Story

Marriage Story

4.5/5 (38 ratings)
44 pages
40 minutes
Apr 13, 2021


“In this clear-eyed and deeply moving essay, Richard Russo gives a hard second look at a story he thought he knew—his parents’ divorce—and finds not only a more expansive personal history, but a more expansive American history. It’s a course of self-reflection, compassion, and connection we would all do well to follow.” —Ann Patchett

“I have watched in wonder for years as Richard Russo has danced as elegantly as Fred Astaire. It is almost impossible to see any move that is not masterful in his prose. This piece is gorgeous, hard as diamonds, and ultimately profoundly moving.” —Luis Alberto Urrea

Who better to take on America’s current class war and its complex, moving parts than Richard Russo? The Pulitzer Prize–winning author is a giant in American letters, beloved by critics and readers alike. Among his gifts are the comedy and compassion he brings to bear in his stories; his effortless style, as readable as it is elegant; and his near-singular ability to capture the lives of America’s working class, the men and women who hail from factory and mill towns that have been left behind as the global economy evolves. Russo was born and raised in such a town—Gloversville, New York—and it’s to this setting he returns in his Scribd Original memoir Marriage Story to chronicle his parents’ lives and why their marriage, ultimately, never had a prayer. His mother and father didn’t share the same faith in America, and their divergent beliefs—one pessimistic, one optimistic—separated them from each other, and sometimes from reality, revealing tensions that Russo’s been writing about ever since.

Through this story of his parents and grandparents and his own departure from both a town and a way of life, Russo declares himself a poster boy for the American Dream and also a well-placed critic of it and of this country’s “brutal contradictions.” His dark-skinned father was the son of Southern Italian immigrants, never quite like the other guys, and yet he was like any other G.I. home from World War II: He did backbreaking work on a road crew, and at night he left his family at home to frequent the local poker rooms. He did not believe that his son, whose name ended in a vowel, would ever be “allowed” to succeed. His mother, the more hopeful of the two, believed hard work and education were the answer to everything that ailed the working class and immigrants alike, refusing to concede to the systemic inequities and disadvantages of ethnicity, race, class, and gender that often made the obstacles to climbing the ladder too great, as they did, in many ways, for her.

A touchingly personal and peculiarly American tale, as topical as it is timeless, Marriage Story speaks directly to the raw material from which so much of today’s divisive political climate has been forged. During the most recent election, the author writes, “many of my friends talked about leaving the country.” But not Russo. “I’ve learned that leaving your home is tricky. If I left my country now, I’d just be repeating myself, having already physically left a place that refused to leave me.” His parents would not have left either, “despite not being able to agree on what America really meant.”

“Maybe it comes down to this,” he writes. “In the end, what do we do with love?”

Apr 13, 2021

About the author

Richard Russo is the author of nine novels, two collections of short stories, a memoir, a book of essays, and several produced screenplays. His novel Empire Falls won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, and his screenplay for the HBO miniseries was nominated for an Emmy. He received the Indie Champion Award from the American Booksellers Association and, in 2017, France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, for Everybody’s Fool. His most recent novel is the bestselling Chances Are …

Book Preview

Marriage Story - Richard Russo

Marriage Story

An American Memoir

By Richard Russo


Copyright © 2021 by Richard Russo

All rights reserved

Cover design by Catherine Casalino

ISBN: 9781094417882

First e-book edition: April 2021

Scribd, Inc.

San Francisco, California


For more, visit www.scribd.com and follow @Scribd on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


I WAS A BOY WHEN MY PARENTS separated but an adult before I began to comprehend fully what their separation was about, just how many moving parts there actually were. In the beginning my mother was my only source of information, and I had little choice but to accept what she told me as true. Nor did she lie to me. She just did what storytellers do to control their narrative: decide where to begin the story she wanted me—her audience—to hear, decide what to emphasize, what to downplay as unimportant, what to leave out entirely. She admitted there were things she couldn’t share with me yet, that I was being told only what I could wrap my young mind around, and I accepted this explanation. Still, the facts were pretty damning to my father. He was, she explained, a compulsive gambler and he was losing money we needed to live on. Sometimes, when the phone rang late at night, the callers were not very nice men my father owed money to, demanding to be paid back. When I asked why my father didn’t just stop gambling, she explained that he wanted to but he couldn’t. He had what was called an addiction, and that was why he wouldn’t be living with us anymore. Was this forever, I wanted to know? Well, that was up to him.

It was a simple, clear narrative and, in its broad strokes, true. Over time, though, the story would expand, like a dry sponge in water. It would come out that their separation wasn’t just about my father’s gambling. He had also disappointed my mother in other ways. She felt, in a word, cheated. As she saw it, when my father returned from the war, things were supposed to go a certain way, and that wasn’t how they were going. After a year or two of celebrating victory, most everyone my mother knew was settling down, starting families, buying homes, or going back to school on the GI Bill. In short, getting on with life. But as others moved forward, she and my father stalled, and by the time I arrived the writing was on the wall. In this way I came gradually to understand that there was such a thing as context and that it had a way of revealing just how inadequate naked facts were to true understanding.

For instance, my father wasn’t the only gambler in town. In fact, most of Gloversville, the upstate mill town where we lived, was to one degree or another addicted, especially working-class recent immigrants. (My father’s parents both hailed from southern Italy.) Our proximity to Saratoga Springs was part of it. This was before off-track betting, but just about everybody played the horses. Every blue-collar bar in town had a bookie installed in a booth or at the end of the bar to take small daily-double wagers, as well as bets on the daily number. These same bookies also circulated in the glove shops and tanneries during

You've reached the end of this preview. to read more!
Page 1 of 1


What people think about Marriage Story

38 ratings / 6 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Short and interesting essay. Russo writes of his parents world views and their parallels with the American dream. It’s interesting how he sees the nuances in the personal and the political
  • (5/5)
    This book is well thought out as well as being well written
  • (5/5)
    Thought provoking and not a single word was wasted. Thanks.
  • (4/5)
    The books get gradually better through the series. If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on Novel Star, just submit your story to hardy@novelstar.top or joye@novelstar.top
  • (5/5)
    This book is well thought out as well as being well written. If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on Novel Star, just submit your story to hardy@novelstar.top or joye@novelstar.top
  • (5/5)

    2 people found this helpful

    Having grown up in a town similar to Gloversville with a similar economic and ethnic base, I could thoroughly
    relate to Richard Russo’s Marriage Story. My French Canadian relatives had difficult complicated lives, but I always felt loved and protected in their midst. During the tough years of the depression, my father labored at many tough jobs,
    some of which never even provided him eventually with a pay check. My mother , a graduate of a music conservatory ,
    saw her students disappear; in many cases , there was no money for food ,much less for piano lessons. Wonder why many of my little friends were “ only children “. Fortunately we lived with my maternal grandparents in a bungalow built in the early 1900s. A measure of prosperity developed with the advent of WW2. My father was hired as a skilled carpenter for a manufacturing plant where he worked gratefully for long hours for the rest of his life. My mother was determined that I would receive an education leading to a “ steady job” as a registered nurse and they were delighted
    to see me marry a career Army Officer, with whom I had 5 children and a long happy marriage. Growing up in the same hard scrabble town, we eventually realized that although we had lacked many material goods we had never considered ourselves “ poor”. We achieved an upper middle class lifestyle and provided college educations for all five children. Our political views have changed and we have become disillusioned with the chaotic situation of the 21st
    century. Russo’s assessment “ America has never not been a mess “ is somewhat reassuring !

    2 people found this helpful