Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Burgess Boys

Strout, Elizabeth. The Burgess Boys. New York: Random House, 2013.

Call No.: F STR

Publisher's Description: Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prize–winning 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, 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.

Librarian's Review: [One of our librarians received an advanced e-galley of this title for review. The following are her comments.] This is the story of the Burgess family. The two sons, Jim and Bob, are attorneys in New York. Their sister Susan still resides in Shirley Falls, Maine, their hometown. They are haunted by an accident which occurred when they were children, leaving their father dead. Bob has always felt inferior to his brother, partly as a repercussion to the traumatic event from childhood. The family comes together to defend Susan's son who is charged with a hate crime against the Somalis in the area. The characters are well-drawn, and the book is well-written. I should have loved it more than I did. I simply failed to connect with the characters. The author used some mild profanity in a few places. The biggest problem for me was that instead of using the word and moving on, she seemed to make sure that the reader noticed she was using the curse words and repeated them multiple times in rapid succession. I read an advanced electronic galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley.