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Empire Falls by Richard Russo
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Empire Falls (2001)

by Richard Russo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,701134558 (3.95)274
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    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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» See also 274 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
St. Bart's 2015 #9 - i really thoroughly enjoyed this book!!! I have also thoroughly enjoyed 4 other of Russo's books.....and I really thought it was gonna be a 5-star winner, but I could not bring myself to do it...I guess I wanted so much more from the ending than I got.....which really sounds arrogant on my part, now that I read back what I just wrote.... I mean it won the Pulitzer prize for gosh sakes!!! But I believe buried in my petty criticism is my true compliment. Nobody seems to capture the precise internal workings of such an accurate bunch of small-town characters like Russo. Unbelievably right-on in so many respects. And he took us on a delightful ride with just the right amount of current vs. flashback. There were constant unexpected revelations that added depth to an already interesting tale that just steadily built up momentum. It was charming, unbelievably funny in some spots (the driver's ed chapter had me laughing out loud uncontrollably!!), and again, full of wonderful characters....I live in a small Maine town....and I swear I know some of these people!!! And that is my point....such a ride led me to expect the ending to end all endings.....but my fantasy was not to be. Don't get me wrong...i LOVED this book...and since when does everything get resolved to my satisfaction in the real world??? Rarely.....So, thank you Russo for a great read and reminding me that we do not always get our way in this life, but our journey is still very worthwhile!!! Oh, and another series of unexpected island adventures in this book randomly chosen for my island vacation! Highly recommended!! ( )
  jeffome | Jan 24, 2015 |
When it comes to story and characters, Empire Falls is a fine read. The setting and the language are good. I was certainly enveloped in the town of Empire Falls and the characters it was peopled with. Also, I liked the narrative as it rotated through the various perspectives. What I did not like about Empire Falls—and this was a pleasure killer—was the inflated narrative style. Every sentence to every scene that happened in the present was followed by paragraphs of back story. Had all but the most relevant back story been excised the novel would probably be cut down by two-thirds. For a story set upon raging waters, the style was rather stagnant. Much too bulky for my tastes.

Overall, Empire Falls was a decent read, but I have a feeling this ballooned style is indicative of Russo. That makes me really hesitant to jump in again. Maybe I will someday, but I'm certainly in no rush. ( )
  chrisblocker | Jan 14, 2015 |
The last 100 pages of this book probably changed a 5 star rating into 4. I can't do school shootings anymore, under any circumstance. Other than that, Richard Russo's writing was superb and I fell in love with all of his quirky characters. I couldn't put the book down. ( )
  carebear10712 | Jan 8, 2015 |
Pulitzer Prize Winner Fiction 2002

I really enjoyed this novel about motivation and determination (and the lack thereof). Empire Falls is a dying small Maine town where the industry that built it is long gone, leaving behind only those who are either too stubborn or too lazy to move on to some place better (both literally and figuratively). There were some nice twists and turns in the narration, but the character development is what shines in this novel. It's about people and these characters feel like real people with real frailties, internal struggles, and petty behaviors. It's a depressing novel about broken dreams and how people deal with them (via resignation or anxiety). ( )
  dulcinea14 | Sep 18, 2014 |
Any Small Northeast Town, USA

Picture of a decaying Maine town, expertly drawn. A sense of fatalism runs through the book--not a happy and uplifting read, but powerful. Nobody does depressed small NE towns better than Russo. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 127 (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.
added by Nickelini | editNew York Times, A.O. Scott (Jun 24, 2001)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Russoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ven, Sandra van deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Compared to the Whiting mansion in town, the house Charles Beaumont Whiting built a decade after his return to Maine was modest.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:48 -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 4 descriptions

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