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The Burgess Boys: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 337 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top customer reviews
This one left me cold and unsatisfied. I couldn't care about any of the characters, try as I might, not even the "likeable" one. There was too much unrelenting misery among these miserable people. The plight of the Somalis was poorly portrayed and try as I might, I couldn't care about them either. I didn't understand many of her choices, such as the one to give away Bob's future mate. Show, don't tell; he and the Unitarian priest (and it's a comment on the novel that I finished it last night and can't remember her name) barely interact.
I also didn't like Strout's essay at the end of the book.. It felt like the author was saying, if only you had tried hard enough to understand, because it's all ever so subtle. It is subtle, and it's true that "You never really know anybody", but when you've finished a good or great book, you know that book like you know a friend; warm feelings are evoked at the thought of the book, part of it becomes part of you. I only have to see the word "olive" to think of Olive Kitteridge, she is part of my heart. This book is disconnected and distant, and I can't care because Strout hasn't made me.
Susan, their sister, has never left Shirley Falls. Divorced, she lives a meager existence with her sullen son, Zach, who works at a Walmart. Shirley Falls, for reasons which are not clear, has become a destination for refugees from Somalia and there is racial tension, if not outright belligerence. Each population is wary of the other. During a Ramadan prayer service at the Shirley Falls mosque, someone throws a pig head in the front door, creating terror in the Somalis, amusement in the police who are first called, and outrage from the press who turn the incident into a news story with legs.
Jim and his wife, Helen, sipping wine in their brownstone in Brooklyn, are packing for a vacation at a swanky resort in the Caribbean, accompanied by Jim's boss and the bosses wife. Bob has stopped by for a drink and the three are about to walk to a restaurant for dinner when an hysterical Susan calls asking for Jim. Zach has confessed to his mother that it was he who threw the pig head into the mosque. He is terrified and can't believe it is national news as he only did it "as a joke." Jim is disgusted with his nephew and angry that he might have to give us his vacation to go to Shirley Falls to deal with what he believes is a tempest in a teapot misdemeanor. After a heated conversation, Bob agrees to go to Shirley Falls to deal with the situation there and Jim and Helen head for their island vacation.
While Bob and Jim see the incident as annoying, an assistant D.A. sees a career making trial if she can get the pig-head incident declared a hate crime. When Bob arrives in Shirley Falls, he takes Zach to the police station to turn himself in. Zach is whisked away but Bob, seeing no real problem, believes Zach will be sent home and end up paying a fine or doing community service. Meanwhile, forces are at work to make sure Zach goes to trial as perpetrating a hate crime and that he does jail time.
The story is told from several perspectives: Helen's, Bob's, Jim's, and one of the Somali's. We learn about the lives of each character beyond their connection to each other. What made this book for me was the dialogue. The conversations are so crisp and real, if a movie is made of the book, the script is already written.
There are no heroes, no villains, but rather people with opinions and beliefs that cloud their thinking and affect their behavior. For all their dissimilar natures, the Burgess family is still a family and the outcome is never really in doubt - hardly likely that Zach will do serious time over the pig-head incident. If there is a moral here, it is that pig-headed describes most of us who cling to our resentments and denials or our rose colored glasses and it sometimes takes a family crisis to put our lives back in perspective or to face an unpleasant reality. I loved it. You should read it.
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