Elizabeth Strout "animates the ordinary with an astonishing force," wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prizewinning Olive Kitteridge. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Strout's "magnificent gift for humanizing characters." Now the acclaimed author returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature.
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.
On a breezy October afternoon in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Helen Farber Burgess was packing for vacation. A big blue suitcase lay open on the bed, and clothes her husband had chosen the night before were folded and stacked on the lounge chair nearby. Sunlight kept springing into the room from the shifting clouds outside, making the brass knobs on the bed shine brightly and the suitcase become very blue. Helen was walking back and forth between the dressing roomwith its enormous mirrors and white horsehair wallpaper, the dark woodwork around the long windowwalking between that and the bedroom, which had French doors that were closed right now, but in warmer weather opened onto a deck that looked out over the garden. Helen was experiencing a kind of mental paralysis that occurred when she packed for a trip, so the abrupt ringing of the telephone brought relief. When she saw the word private, she knew it was either the wife of one of her...
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).
Full Review (759 words).
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.
The civil war that wracked Somalia for much of the early '90s meant an increasing number of refugees fleeing the country to distant places, including the United States. While large urban areas such as Atlanta attracted the first wave of Somalis, in the early 2000s, Somali immigrants started making their way into Maine, initially to Portland. Because the city of Portland had very limited affordable housing options, the Somalis ...
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