The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although it took me a few pages to identify and relax into the slower pace of Strout's story, after a steady diet of thrillers and lighter weight reads, I found myself ultimately absorbed in this exploration of human relationships.
Back in 2008 I attempted to read the top ten fiction books according to Entertainment Weekly. Elizabeth Strout's collection of short stories featuring Olive Kitteridge was on the list and I loved the book. Then it won a Pulitzer. So The Burgess Boys was of great interest.
Bottom Line: A worthy read but make sure you are prepared for lots of introspection and sadness with just a flicker of hope.
The original tragedy of the story has occurred years earlier when children are left in a car and one releases the brake causing their father's death. Now grown-ups, oldest son Jim is a well-known celebrity lawyer while his sad sack brother Bob, is also a lawyer but for Legal Aid. They live very different lives in New York City.
There is another sibling, Susan, the youngest, and Bob's twin. She has continued to live a divorced life in small town Maine with her inscrutable son Zack.
Zack commits what many consider a 'hate crime' directed at Somali refugees living in Shirley Falls. The family comes together in response to this crisis but things spin out of control.
Without being judgmental, Strout sketches the contrast between life in a small town with that of the big city. She creates a world where we can examine our own family relationships. We also learn something about what it must be like to be a refugee in a foreign country and Strout handles all the characters with grace and compassion.
One of my favorite quotes : "And it was too late. No one wants to believe something is too late, but it is always becoming too late, and then it is."
Disclaimer: I got my copy of The Burgess Boys in electronic format from NetGalley after seeing a number of mentions and reviews.
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Publisher: Random House (March 26, 2013)
No. of Pages: 336 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: pre pub from NetGalley
A Pulitzer Prize winner for Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout is also a New York Times bestselling author who has won a number of awards. Interested in writing, she earned an undergraduate degree in English and later a law degree. She lives in Maine and New York City.