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Empire Falls by Richard Russo
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Empire Falls (2001)

by Richard Russo

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6,944143519 (3.95)301
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    The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (browner56)
    browner56: Although separated by half a century and half the country, Thalia, Texas and Empire Falls, Maine could be the same dreary and decaying small town.
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English (136)  Korean (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (140)
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
This is a slice of small town life, an economically depressed small town, whose main industry is now closed. Miles Roby is just getting by running a restaurant owned by the widow of the town bigwig. His relationships with family, customers, neighbors, school and church are the stuff of real life and each of those characters and their involvements with each other are perfectly nuanced. Empire Falls is mostly character driven and Richard Russo is a wonderful driver. ( )
  countrylife | Feb 8, 2016 |
I was forever getting through this book, possibly because I had seen the TV movie and kept seeing those characters instead of the ones in the book - I mean who can get Paul Newman in a role like that out of their mind? And Helen Hunt was not bad in her role either, certainly memorable. Not a bad book, might be fun to take along on a vacation with a friend - lots of parts were very funny read out loud. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Very gossipy and amusing, but peppered with relationship truths, rather like a TV series you can't help but watch every week. The author delineates the many characters by sharing their unedited inner discourse. The heart and soul of the fictional Maine town, Empire Falls, have been eroded by the closed factories, and the remaining inhabitants have adjusted with varying degrees of success to the vicissitudes visited upon them. ( )
  andreasaria | Jan 24, 2016 |
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002, this book got off to a slow start for me. However, as the story continued, I found that I could not put it down.

Set in a depressed area, where textile manufacturing was once king, the town is now a shell of what it used to be, with one matriarch running the show, and not always benevolently. The protagonist, Miles, is a very likable guy, even if he's a little bit of a milquetoast. His father is hella irritating until the end, his ex-wife is irritating until the end, and the other supporting characters are the same: very real, flawed, and yet exceptional at the same time.

I loved the flow of the story. This is a depiction of real life. Miles' mother wants so much more for her son, and yet there is something about Empire Falls that draws him back. She herself has suffered a lost love, before she even had it. In turn, he wants so much for his daughter, and yet ... will she escape her hometown? Miles, too, suffers from the cruelest kind of love: unrequited. What exactly is the hold old Mrs. Whiting has on everyone? Does she have any other emotion rather than vengeance?

A lovely story of middle-America, with characters who are so real that you can pinpoint them in your own family. A wonderful, wonderful recommendation. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
This novel of the decaying northeastern working class town is a novel Russo wrote several times (Mohawk, the Risk Pool and Nobody's Fool are all working this same vein and seem to live in the same world). Kind of like Dostoevsky kept writing the great modern philosophical novel cum soap opera. He wasn't really repeating himself, just taking different paths up the mountain side.

So with Russo. All these books are worth reading and reinforce one another. And they're all different.

One thing I think Russo was a bit torn about was the protagonists of these novels. He wants us to like them because our usual reaction to the types of men he is dealing with is contempt. And comedy is his way of making us laugh with as well as at these men.

But he also wants us to take these very flawed characters seriously, and to see and weigh the serious havoc they cause and have done to them, so comedy wouldn't really do for that.

Empire Falls is where he works hardest on the serious end of things, so it may help to have read one of the earlier goes at this world before reading Empire Falls--just to ensure you get that core fondness for these figures before having it tested.

I think this is the best of the four novels--here Russo is able to expand the scope of this world more, and put a face on the faceless forces that determine men's fates--but there is less joy in this novel than the others.

If you haven't yet read this one, go check out Risk Pool or Nobody's Fool first. I think you'll appreciate this better for the deeper background. ( )
  ehines | Sep 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
Russo's command of his story is unerring, but his manner is so unassuming that his mastery is easy to miss. He satisfies every expectation without lapsing into predictability, and the last section of the book explodes with surprises that also seem, in retrospect, like inevitabilities. As the pace quickens and the disparate threads of the narrative draw tighter, you find yourself torn between the desire to rush ahead and the impulse to slow down.

Empire Falls, situated at a fictitious and unlovely bend of the Knox River, is the kind of place tourists from Boston or New York speed through en route to the mini-Martha's Vineyards of the Maine coast, perhaps stopping for lunch at a place like the Empire Grill and eavesdropping on the taciturn, wisecracking regulars. By the end of this novel, you'll know the town's geography like a native, and its tattered landmarks -- the Empire Grill, the old Whiting shirt factory, the architectural folly C. B. Whiting built across the river -- will be as vivid and as charged with metaphor as Salem's house of seven gables or the mansions of East Egg. You will also have had the good fortune to tour this unremarkable geography in the company of an amiable, witty raconteur who knows all the gossip and the local history as well as some pretty good jokes. Only after you've bought him a beer, shaken his hand and said goodbye will it occur to you that he's also one of the best novelists around.
added by WiJiWiJi | editNew York Times, A.O. Scott (Jun 24, 2001)
 
Russo's command of his story is unerring, but his manner is so unassuming that his mastery is easy to miss. He satisfies every expectation without lapsing into predictability, and the last section of the book explodes with surprises that also seem, in retrospect, like inevitabilities. As the pace quickens and the disparate threads of the narrative draw tighter, you find yourself torn between the desire to rush ahead and the impulse to slow down.
added by Nickelini | editNew York Times, A.O. Scott (Jun 24, 2001)
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Russoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ven, Sandra van deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Robert Benton
First words
Compared to the Whiting mansion in town, the house Charles Beaumont Whiting built a decade after his return to Maine was modest.
Quotations
Some sins trail their own penance.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375726403, Paperback)

Like most of Richard Russo's earlier novels, Empire Falls is a tale of blue-collar life, which itself increasingly resembles a kind of high-wire act performed without the benefit of any middle-class safety nets. This time, though, the author has widened his scope, producing a comic and compelling ensemble piece. There is, to be sure, a protagonist: fortysomething Miles Roby, proprietor of the local greasy spoon and the recently divorced father of a teenage daughter. But Russo sets in motion a large cast of secondary characters, drawn from every social stratum of his depressed New England mill town. We meet his ex-wife Janine, his father Max (another of Russo's cantankerous layabouts), and a host of Empire Grill regulars. We're also introduced to Francine Whiting, a manipulative widow who owns half the town--and who takes a perverse pleasure in pointing out Miles's psychological defects.

Miles does indeed have a tendency to take it on the chin. (At one point he alludes to his own "natural propensity for shit-eating.") And his role as Mr. Nice Guy thrusts him into all sorts of clashes with his not-so-nice contemporaries, even as the reader patiently waits for him to blow his top. It would be impossible to summarize Russo's multiple plot lines here. Suffice it to say that he touches on love and marriage, lust and loss and small-town economics, with more than a soupçon of class resentment stirred into the broth. This is, in a sense, an epic of small and large frustrations: "After all, what was the whole wide world but a place for people to yearn for their heart's impossible desires, for those desires to become entrenched in defiance of logic, plausibility, and even the passage of time, as eternal as polished marble." Yet Russo's comedic timing keeps the novel from collapsing into an orgy of breast-beating, and his dialogue alone--snappy and natural and efficiently poignant--is sufficient cause to put Empire Falls on the map. --Bob Brandeis

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:27 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it's Janine, Miles' soon-to-be ex-wife, who's taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it's the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town-and seems to believe that "everything" includes Miles himself. In Empire Falls Richard Russo delves deep into the blue-collar heart of America . . .… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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