The Risk Pool is where you get your car insurance when your driving record is so bad no insurance company will have you as a customer. Sam Hall is perpetually in the Risk Pool, and that is where he feels at home. In Richard Russo’s novel we see Sam through the eyes of his son, who mostly lives with his mother but spent two important years with his father, sampling his way of life.
I have enjoyed all of Richard Russo’s novels, stories of the lives of errant and under-employed men in the decaying industrial towns of upstate New York. The Risk Pool is an early book, before Nobody’s Fool and Empire Falls. Russo’s narrative command is not as smooth here as it became in the later books. Still, I relate to these people who accept who they are and where they are. They don’t love it, they just accept it.