The Burgess Boys – Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys - Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys – Elizabeth Strout

I came across this novel in a second hand book store in Albany. As I loved Olive KitteridgeI had to get this one (and it was only $5!).

Here is the blurb …

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 Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art.

I have been battling my way through The Scarlet Letter (although that has picked up now I am passed the Customs House chapter) and I decided to have a break and read something that I wanted to read and not something that I had to read for one of my various book clubs. The Burgess Boys had been sitting on my book shelf for a few months and I decided to leap in. I read it in a couple of days. What Ms Strout does well is make unsympathetic characters sympathetic (almost). These characters are hard on themselves and each other – they’re strong on duty. Susan, in particular, seems to deny herself any of life’s comforts – her home is cold and unwelcoming. Although she seems to thaw a bit in her interactions with her elderly lodger. Jim has escaped Maine and does not want to be dragged back (and in fact his presence just makes thing worse for Zach). However, Jim’s seemingly perfect life starts to unravel and it is his much belittled brother and sister who come to his rescue. Bob seems a bit lost – couldn’t take the pressure of the court-room and divorced – he is kind though although not particularly pro-active. Zach’s crime is the catalyst that sets things in motion for the Burgess family but also for the Shirley Falls community. This is a beautifully written story about family and community, about compassion and treating people with kindness and respect.

More reviews …


Leave a Comment

Filed under Fiction, Recommended

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *