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The Burgess Boys: A Novel by Elizabeth…

The Burgess Boys: A Novel (edition 2013)

by Elizabeth Strout

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Title:The Burgess Boys: A Novel
Authors:Elizabeth Strout
Info:Random House (2013), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Personal Library
Tags:My 2012 Book Challenge

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The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

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    Run by Ann Patchett (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: A dramatic incident provokes adult siblings to explore their lives and relationships in these moving and lyrical novels. While more about family than race, both books include thought-provoking meditations on the complexity of racial relations in 21st century America.… (more)

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Elizabeth Strout follows up her Pulitzer Prize win with a novel about a family in crisis. Brothers Jim and Bob Burgess grew up in tiny Shirley Falls, Maine. Both became lawyers and fled small-town life for New York. Sister Susan remained in Shirley Falls, got married, had a son, and divorced. When all three were very small their father was killed, run down by the family car when four-year-old Bob unwittingly released the hand brake, and the guilt he has lived with for his entire life has rendered him hopelessly indecisive and sapped his self-esteem. The contrast with Jim--a hot-shot lawyer still, many years later, riding a wave of national celebrity for a high-profile case early in his career as a defense attorney--could not be more stark. Jim exudes confidence, and when Susan’s son Zack commits a pointless act of vandalism against the Somali community in Shirley Falls and is charged with a hate crime, it is Jim that Susan calls to fix the problem. The action proceeds at a measured pace, the story told from multiple characters’ perspectives. The tension derives from Jim and Bob being compelled to return to Shirley Falls for the first time in years, and having to deal with the ghosts of a painful past and with each other. It is a typical brotherly relationship: contentious and yet loyal and supportive. When truths emerge, as they always do, all three siblings find that their relationship has been changed forever. Strout is masterful when it comes to digging into her characters’ motives and revealing them as deeply flawed individuals whose triumphs we cheer and whose failures we mourn. She writes crisp and utterly convincing dialogue. It might not be Olive Kittridge, but The Burgess Boys further solidifies her reputation as one of the best novelists at work today. ( )
  icolford | Sep 28, 2016 |
Street write with insight in the human condition, real, believable, and touching. ( )
  pattiphelps | Aug 26, 2016 |
A family living in Shirley Falls, Maine is struck by a tragedy that kills the father of three children. The children are Jim, age 8 and 4 year old twins Bob and Sue. Is seems that Bob somehow released the clutch on the family car and a rollover killed the dad. Years later we meet the adult Jim, who is a successful criminal lawyer in Manhattan and living in Brooklyn. Bob is a mediocre lawyer living in Brooklyn and Sue, an optometrist, remained in her hometown.
The story reunites the family in Shirley Falls when Sue's 18 year old son Zach is found to have thrown a frozen pig's head into the local mosque and is charged by the police. This becomes a media sensation and we get to see the siblings close up as they deal with their emotions and their past as the story plays out.
A minor character, Abdikaram, is introduced at this stage. He is a member of the local Somali community, which is growing in Shirley Falls and causing a lot of resentment. Initially he is a appalled by Zach's behaviour but he gradually begins to understand that he's a scared young man without intent to hurt people.
This a very good story about family, guilt, mental health, success, failure, hope and reconciliation. It is also about change and changing attitudes towards minorities. The characters are very well developed and described. It's interesting to see the changes in the siblings and their relationships over the story's timelines. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Jul 8, 2016 |
(Fiction, Contemporary, American)

With The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout continues her tradition of fine fiction (see my notes on her Amy and Isabelle.) Her writing is beautiful and the stories are memorable.

Read this if: you want a literary summer read (another one!) 4 stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jul 1, 2016 |
I had read all the novels by this author except this one. So I thought I would read it, but was very disappointed. The narrative was not strong enough to keep me reading. I lost interest very early and pushed to finish.
Once again, Shirley Falls, Maine is the focus, where a boy named Zackary threw a pig's head into a synagogue and was charged with civil rights violation. The Burgess boys are his uncles, both lawyers.
There was some good language but the plot was week. ( )
  bettyroche | Apr 22, 2016 |
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To my husband

Jim Tierney
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My mother and I talked a lot about the Burgess Family. "The Burgess kids," she called them.
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Book description
Haunted by a 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 possible could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a legal aid attorney who idolises Jim, has always taken it in his stride.

But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan - the sibling who stayed behind - urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has landed 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.
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Catalyzed by a nephew's thoughtless prank, a pair of brothers confront painful psychological issues surrounding the freak accident that killed their father when they were boys, a loss linked to a heartbreaking deception that shaped their personal and professional lives.… (more)

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