REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH
Expanding from the memories of one ordinary Upstate New York shopkeeper into a great American story, the latest novel from the author of Empire Falls is as rich an experience as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, though without the barbed tone. Lou C. Lynch—a 60-year-old convenience store owner who thinks of his life as "The Dullest Story Ever Told" and hasn't budged from his depressed hometown—is a likable nobody whose old friend Bobby Marconi, having restyled himself as Robert Noonan and moved to Venice, is a famous painter. Their bond evolved into a love triangle with Sarah, a gifted artist herself. Alternating reflections from Lou's quiet life with tales of Noonan's magnificent decadence, Russo builds these characters and their families with sympathy and skill. All around, small events illuminate the postwar American condition: The calamities suffered by one black family tell us everything about racism without pandering or sanctimony, while the tannery upriver that brings economic vitality—and cancer—teaches more about industry than any economics textbook. Sighs is beautiful, funny, profound and, in the end, quietly devastating. It's a book built to endure.