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The Burgess Boys: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 26, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (March 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067685
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067688
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,446 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013: It can’t be easy to sit down and write a new novel after your last, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize (in 2009). The pressure! The pressure! In The Burgess Boys, novelist Elizabeth Strout somehow manages to survive whatever next-book anxiety while at the same time revisiting the themes and types of characters that have made her famous: plainspoken Mainers (some transplanted now to Brooklyn) bound together by both love, competitiveness and the issues of the day. Here, hotshot lawyer Jim and bighearted Bob Burgess come together over a politically incorrect prank perpetrated by their sister’s son--and discover that their distrust of each other has never really gone away. But then, neither has their love. Nobody does buried conflict and tortured familial relations better than Strout. --Sara Nelson

From Booklist

Pulitzer Prize–winning Strout (Olive Kitteridge, 2008) delivers a tightly woven yet seemingly languorous portrayal of a family in longtime disarray. Brothers Jim and Bob Burgess, and sister Susan, are mired in a childhood trauma: when he was four, Bob unwittingly released the parking brake on the family car, which ran over their father and killed him. Originally from small Shirley Falls, Maine, the Burgess brothers have long since fled to vastly disparate lives as New York City attorneys. Egoistic Jim is a famous big shot with a corporate firm. Self-effacing Bob leads a more low-profile career with Legal Aid. High-strung Susan calls them home to fix a family crisis: her son stands accused of a possible hate crime against the small town’s improbable Somali population. The siblings’ varying responses to the crisis illuminate their sheer differences while also recalling their shared upbringing, forcing them finally to deal with their generally unmentioned, murky family history. Strout’s tremendous talent at creating a compelling interest in what seems on the surface to be the barest of actions gives her latest work an almost meditative state, in which the fabric of family, loyalty, and difficult choices is revealed in layer after artful layer. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This is the first novel from Strout since her Pulitzer Prize–winning, runaway best-seller, Olive Kitteridge, and anticipation will be high. --Julie Trevelyan

More About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

Customer Reviews

Great story, wonderful character development, and beautiful style.
M. M. Berliner
As I read it, I kept wondering if it were better to waste the money I spent on the book by not finishing it or better to waste the time by continuing to read it.
Couldn't get into the story and didn't like the main characters very much.
Rebecca Anne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

316 of 345 people found the following review helpful By Spindrift VINE VOICE on January 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just finished Elizabeth Strout's new novel "The Burgess Boys" and feel more like my plane has just landed at LAX from Maine and I am disoriented as I make my way to claim my baggage because my head and my heart are still back in Shirley Falls with the Burgess family.

I want to contact someone in the family and check on everyone...that is how attached I became to "The Burgess Boys" and the rest of the clan as I read this wonderful book. It absolutely takes my breath away, how the phenomenal Strout can create a character like Olive Kitteridge (who owned my heart) and then produce her opposite on earth (Jim Burgess) so perfectly. There are alot of characters in "The Burgess Boys". In another author's hands, it could have been too many. But each of these compelling people are drawn so succinctly, with so much dimension and stunning depth, that they will literally stay with me forever. They are a family that has suffered together, not liked each other very much sometimes, but have a loving grasp on each other that will never be released. Not anyone here is completely likable...or completely not so. They all are attempting to do the best that they can. Aren't we all?

This is also the story of immigrants...and how painfully difficult their epic struggle is. How there are some elements so unique to the saga of immigrating to a new country, that it is not possible for the residents of the area receiving them to fully understand.

But most of all this is the story of an ordinary family. How childhood trauma touches all of us in different ways, how ugly and disparaging comments made to a loved one carelessly can impact their whole life. It just screams at the the ones you love well, and never wander too far away from home...because your heart never really leaves anyway.

Don't miss "The Burgess Boys". I have a feeling that it will become just as important of a book as it's predecessor, "Olive Kitteridge".
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139 of 156 people found the following review helpful By the Peripatetic Gardener on February 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In some ways I dreaded opening Elizabeth Strout's 'The Burgess Boys.' I'd admired the Pulitzer Prize winning 'Olive Kitteridge' and feared that Strout's next novel could never live up to my expectations. In retrospect I see that I should spend more time worrying about world peace and my vanishing waist line and let Strout take care of herself.

Some authors are like trapeze artists - they make the impossible look easy. Strout is such an author. My fears for her newest novel failed to take into consideration her beautiful prose. She is a gifted storyteller. And add that her insight into the human heart, and we have the makings of a great novel.

Simply put, 'The Burgess Boys' is the story of three siblings, two brothers and a sister, who live with the guilt of their young father's death. Leaving the three in the running car, he had stepped out for a moment; one of the children sat behind the wheel, and the car rolled forward, killing their father.

'The Burgess Boys' is, as the title suggests, a novel of family relationships. And the effect of guilt and redemption. Who is truly responsible for the accident? Can the two alienated Burgess brothers pull together to help their sister when her own son is accused of a hate crime? What makes us the people that we are? How do we earn redemption?

It is a novel of character rather than plot, of introspection rather than action.

But it's also a novel whose beautiful prose is to be savoured and enjoyed.
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323 of 377 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn A. Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the risk of being very unpopular among all my fellow reviewers who adore Elizabeth Strout and love her new novel, THE BURGESS BOYS, I'm afraid I am going to have to take the middle road in my evaluation of it.

Totally predictable and, for this reviewer anyway, utterly boring, it's difficult for me to say to whom this novel would appeal most. My best guess is those readers who enjoy latent, passive prose.

An apt adjective for Strout's style in THE BURGESS BOYS is subdued. She has a knack for ordinary realism and capturing her characters' quirky and forbearing New England relationships but there is always an underlying hopelessness beneath the surface which disheartened me.

Although Strout's prose is quite lovely, the story is a spirit-sapping slog through sodden, dysfunctional family melodrama that simply works too hard to say something profound. There is a statement proclaimed at one point, that "Everyone's happy. Freedom from white guilt makes everyone happy" but the irony is no one is ever really happy. The prevailing mood of depression and the overriding sense of alienation and loneliness only kept me at arm's length from the heart and soul of the primary characters: the Burgess siblings - Jimmy, Bobby and Susan, their spouses and ex-spouses, and Susan's troubled son, Zach.

Unfortunately for this reader, Strout's characterizations could not pull me into the world she attempted to create for them. Rather than being multi-dimensional characters of depth they are sadly stuck in stereotypes.

Strout is subtle in showing how empty and pointless the lives of her characters are but their desolation and abject loneliness are never lifted. Their story just plods heavily, anticlimactically along.
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