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, Susanthe Burgess sibling who stayed behindurgently 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.
The dialog is superb and in Strout's trademark style, entirely unpretentious. The Burgess Boys is an insightful examination of how our childhoods shape and define us even as we struggle to shake loose the ghosts of our past. Fans of Elizabeth Strout will want to read this new one even if it might not rank among her very best. Visiting the hardy Puritan New England state of Maine is always fun in Strout's able hands. (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
The Boston Globe
...And this is what the novel is really about: people who believe they know who they are and then are disabused of that belief.
Strout’s pursuit of this theme contributes somewhat to the mess, but this is part of this novel’s success: Life is messy, and inevitably, in doing justice to that messiness, the novel ends up replicating it. And in order to forgive or ignore the messiness, the novel must give us something that life does not. Strout's The Burgess Boys' gives us plenty.
NPR Olive Kitteridge was a book that thrived on the perplexing tragedies of the absolutely ordinary, the invisible losses in a seemingly normal household and its ordinary, middle-class inhabitants. It might have been interesting to meet Susan, Bob and Jim with flaws that had no direct historical cause — the kind most of us have, after all. But if Strout's novel is a little fitful, so is family itself, and her command of it has not wavered.
USA Today The Burgess Boys never comes close to Olive Kitteridge-like perfection. But there are more than enough flashes of ironic humor and magnanimous compassion to remind you how good Strout can be.
Strout excels in constructing an intricate web of circuitous family drama, which makes for a powerful story, but the familiarity of the novel’s questions and a miraculously disentangled denouement drain the story of depth
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Becky H great book for discussion After starting slowly, The Burgess Boys became quietly fascinating. I kept reading and reading until I finished it in just two days (with many life interruptions). Although I didn’t like Jim, he was spellbinding in his dysfunction. Bob, the much... Read More
Years ago, when we were vacationing in Maine, we drove through the city of Portland and I spotted a lady holding a child by the hand. She was dressed in an extremely colorful hijaab and that riot of color really stood out in my mind I was reminded of that flash of color after I put down The Burgess Boys.
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