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The Burgess Boys Hardcover – Deckle Edge, 26 March 2013
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post - NPR - Good Housekeeping
Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan--the Burgess sibling who stayed behind--urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.
With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with readers long after they turn the final page. Tender, tough-minded, loving, and deeply illuminating about the ties that bind us to family and home, The Burgess Boys is perhaps Elizabeth Strout's most astonishing work of literary art.
"Elizabeth Strout's first two books, Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle, were highly thought of, and her third, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. But The Burgess Boys, her most recent novel, is her best yet."--The Boston Globe
"Strout's greatest gift as a writer, outside a diamond-sharp precision that packs 320 fast-paced pages full of insight, is her ability to let the reader in on all the rancor of her characters without making any of them truly detestable. . . . Strout creates a portrait of an American community in turmoil that's as ambitious as Philip Roth's American Pastoral but more intimate in tone."--Time
"[Strout's] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again. . . . At times [The Burgess Boys is] almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and . . . startling riffs of gripping emotion."--Associated Press
"[Strout] is at her masterful best when conjuring the two Burgess boys. . . . Scenes between them ring so true."--San Francisco Chronicle
"No one should be surprised by the poignancy and emotional vigor of Elizabeth Strout's new novel. But the broad social and political range of The Burgess Boys shows just how impressively this extraordinary writer continues to develop."--The Washington Post
"Strout deftly exposes the tensions that fester among families. But she also takes a broader view, probing cultural divides. . . . Illustrating the power of roots, Strout assures us we can go home again--though we may not want to."--O: The Oprah Magazine
"Reading an Elizabeth Strout novel is like peering into your neighbor's windows. . . . There is a nuanced tension in the novel, evoked by beautiful and detailed writing. Strout's manifestations of envy, pride, guilt, selflessness, bigotry and love are subtle and spot-on."--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Strout conveys what it feels like to be an outsider very well, whether she's delving into the quiet inner lives of Somalis in Shirley Falls or showing how the Burgess kids got so alienated from one another. But the details are so keenly observed, you can connect with the characters despite their apparent isolation. . . . [A] gracefully written novel. [Grade: ] A."--Entertainment Weekly
"Wincingly funny, moving, wise."--Good Housekeeping
"With her signature lack of sentimentality, a boatload of clear-eyed compassion and a penetrating prose style that makes the novel riveting, Strout tells the story of one Maine family, transformed. Again and again, she identifies precisely the most complex of filial emotions while illuminating our relationships to the larger families we all belong to: a region, a city, America and the world."--More
"The Burgess Boys returns to coastal Maine [with] a grand unifying plot, all twists and damage and dark, morally complex revelations. . . . The grand scale suits Strout, who now adds impresario storytelling at book length to the Down East gift for plainspoken wisdom."--Town & Country
About the Author
- ASIN : 1400067685
- Publisher : Random House (26 March 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781400067688
- ISBN-13 : 978-1400067688
- Dimensions : 16.97 x 3.15 x 24.38 cm
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Top reviews from Australia
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The sadness and melancholy Strout achieves is finely balanced with whispers of hope and promise. It explores the unresolved and the unsaid. Other themes are prejudice and ignorance that are explored both explicitly and subtlety. Strout ably demonstrates that no one regardless of race, class, age, gender or other identifier holds a monopoly on admirable behaviour.
Top reviews from other countries
With the sister, Susan having trouble with her teenage son Zach, due to him throwing a pig’s head into the local mosque so both the brothers, Bob and Jim find themselves going back to Shirley Falls. We read a bit of a courtroom drama here then, and the immigrant experience, that of those who have had to flee their own countries due to the troubles going on there, in this case Somalia. Here with a gentle touch the author tries to portray the culture shock and other experiences of these refugees, and of course the shock of the pig’s head being slung into the mosque.
This novel though is more than just that, and indeed Zach is a character who although central to the tale as the catalyst for the family coming together, is not in the story much. As well then as taking in the immigrants and the problems that can occur this is also the tale of families and the interactions between the different members, as well as their lives, with their own families, divorces, children and so on. Each of the Burgess children seem to think that they are responsible for the freak accident that killed their father many years before, and we never really know for sure who is actually the person who caused the unfortunate incident. We read of the difference between small town lives, and those lived in the city and the worry of all parents, as to whether they are bringing their children up properly.
There is therefore a lot to take in with this book which although at times can feel perhaps a bit too gloomy does hold out hope as the main three characters start to re-evaluate their lives and find what is most important to them. Taking in then the plight of refugees, this also takes in the need for understanding amongst us all, the ties that keep friends and families together, and the associated bonds, as well as the mistakes that we can all too easily make in life. This thus makes for a book that would be good for book groups and although perhaps you may not think so due to its length, is really quite meaty in subject matter.
Not perhaps her best, but anything by her is worth reading
I found this a novel that held my attention, but I did not feel it was the equal of the other novels I've read by this author. I'd suggest starting with Olive Kittredge or My Name is Lucy Barton. It's admirable that she is trying something new in this novel, particularly in the Somali segments, but I didn't feel it was as successful as what I presume is more familiar material in her other novels.