Burgess Boys (Strout) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
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.... As she showed in Olive Kitteridge, Strout is something of a connoisseur of emotional cruelty. But does anyone capture middle age quite as tenderly? Those latent fears—of change, of not changing, of being alone, of being stuck forever with the same person. There seems no limit to her sympathy, her ability to express, without the acrid tone of irony, our selfish, needy anxieties that only family can aggravate—and quell.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Strout’s follow-up to her 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner Olive Kitteridge links a trio of middle-aged siblings with a group of Somali immigrants in a familiar story about isolation within families and communities. The Burgesses have troubles both public and secret: sour, divorced Susan, who stayed in the family’s hometown of Shirley Falls, Maine, with her teenage son Zachary; big-hearted Bob, who feels guilty about their father’s fatal car accident; and celebrity defense lawyer Jim, who moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. When Zachary hurls a bloody pig’s head into a Somali mosque during Ramadan, fragile connections between siblings, the Somalis, and other Shirley Falls residents are tested. Jim’s bullish meddling into Zach’s trial hurts rather than helps, and Susan’s inability to act without her brothers’ advice cements her role as the weakest link (and least interesting character). Finally, when Jim’s neurotic wife, Helen, witnesses the depth of her husband’s indifference and Bob’s ex-wife, Pam, finds the security of her new life in Manhattan tested by nostalgia for Shirley Falls, Zach’s fate—and that of the Somalis—becomes an unfortunate afterthought. 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
Publishers Weekly


As in her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteredge, Strout promises to make everyday small-town life luminous and absorbing. Brothers who have fled upstate Shirley Falls for New York City return when their sister needs help with her troubled teenage son.
Library Journal


Two squabbling brothers confront their demons, their crumbling love lives and a hate crime case that thrusts them back to their Maine roots. The titular boys...are Jim and Bob Burgess.... polar opposites emotionally.... The two snap into action when their sister's son in their native Maine is apprehended for throwing a pig's head into a mosque. The scenario gives Strout an opportunity to explore the culture of the Somalis who have immigrated to the state in recent years.... But this is mainly a carefully manicured study of domestic (American and household) dysfunction with some rote messages about the impermanence of power and the goodness that resides in hard-luck souls.... A skilled but lackluster novel that dutifully ticks off the boxes of family strife, infidelity and ripped-from-the-headlines issues.
Kirkus Reviews




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