Book Review: The Burgess Boys
THE BURGESS BOYS
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Audiobook, read by Cassandra
Source: The Publisher via TLC Book Tours
My Rating: A+
I believe Elizabeth Strout has another winner in The Burgess Boys. After winning the Pulitzer for her last novel, she needs to keep her standards high. I think she did. In this new book she takes us inside a family of grown children and the dynamics still at play between them all.
First there is Jim, the oldest and most successful family member. He is a Harvard-educated lawyer who most people look up to. The twins are Bob and Susan. Bob is also a lawyer, but he works for Legal Aid, considered by Jim as “doing nothing.” Both he and Jim live in Brooklyn. Susan, an optometrist, still lives in their hometown of Shirley Falls, Maine. She’s divorced with one son, 19, still living at home.We also meet Helen, Jim’s wife and Pam, Bob’s ex-wife.
The story revolves around a stupid and thoughtless prank that Susan’s son Zach committed. Of all things, Zach threw the bleeding head of a pig into the front door of a mosque where local Somalian immigrants were worshipping.
Susan asks Jim to help with the problem. She is extremely nervous about the possibility of her son going to jail. Since Jim and Helen are about to leave for vcation in the tropics, Helen urges Jim to let Bob handle the problem.
Bob is a capable attorney but he’s not smooth at handling the political side of things. And, of course, things do go from politically bad to worse.
The small town of Shirley Falls is struggling to handle the booming influx of black Somalian refugees. When the story hits the state and national media, things get very tough for the Somalis, the white townfolk and the Burgess family.
An in-depth look at each family member is the real heart of this story. We get a close look at everyone’s past, particularly the three Burgess children. As the story starts the three siblings’ relationship is fractured but they attempt to pull together in order to help Zach.
Every family has their own history and dynamics among each other. The Burgess’ family’s dynamic is rather interesting. The author tells their story in such a sensitive way all the way through to the touching conclusion. (Hint: Have a tissue ready for the last three chapters.) Ms. Strout definitely understands family dyamics and human nature.
Don’t miss The The Burgess Boys.
UPDATE: I meant to mention that I listened to this audiobook. It was superbly done and certainly added to my pleasure. The reader was Cassandra Campell. She did an excellent job with the various characters. To my ears, her “Maine accent” seemed legitimate. She convinced me. Thanks to Candace at Beth Fish Reads for asking.
About the author:
I suspected this when I read her two most recent novels, but yes, the author has spent much of her life in Maine as well as New Hampshire and New York City. When she graduated from two of Syracuse University’s graduate schools she had double degrees in law and gerontology. At the same time Ms. Strout wrote short stories that were published in literary magazines as well as popular magazines such as Redbook and Seventeen.
Ms. Strout’s first novel, Amy and Isabelle, was shortlisted in 2000 for the Orange Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award.