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Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Empire Falls (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Richard Russo

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6,842139538 (3.95)282
Title:Empire Falls
Authors:Richard Russo
Info:New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Collections:Your library
Tags:contemporary fiction, literature

Work details

Empire Falls by Richard Russo (2001)

  1. 30
    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (2810michael)
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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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    Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina (readerbabe1984)
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    Staggerford by Jon Hassler (readerbabe1984)
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    Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns (readerbabe1984, readerbabe1984)

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Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
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 |
This book was a roller coaster ride for me. After reading the prologue I remember thinking that this was going to be the best book I had read in a long time. The history of the man who reluctantly returns to Empire Falls, Maine to manage the textile mill which made his family rich was fascinating. Then the book jumps to the present and the seemingly unrelated story of Miles who runs the Empire Grill and I was like "What the heck just happened?" A major let down ensued for several days as I struggled to get into the story. Then, bit by bit, things started to come together. The characters became more and more developed, if not eccentric, and I found myself itching to get back to the story every chance I got. Needless to say, nothing about the story is predictable until you're practically on top of it, which is a sign of a good story to me. I highly recommend it and wish I could give it 5 stars, but I can't forget my disappointment with the first few chapters. ( )
  valorrmac | Aug 19, 2015 |
I have loved all of the Russo novels that I've read so far. This one started off slow and it took a few weeks to get through the first part, but when it picked up, I was staying up until 3 in the morning (on work nights!) because I couldn't put it down. I did double over and laugh hysterically when Miles was in driver's ed!

Miles was an unlovable protagonist--actually, they ALL were! That's what I like about Russo most; how realistic and flawed his characters are. If I could be anyone in the novel, I'd want to be Max. However, I'd rather not actually know him in real life.

I'm wondering; how will Miles' newfound guilt at the end effect him? ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
I did enjoy the part I read of this book - but just could not keep going. I'm sure it's wonderful, but after reading 1/2 of it, I simply did not care anymore about any of the characters or what they did or did not do. I gave it two stars since, as I said, the writing was good enough to keep up my interest at least through half. ( )
  suzyblack | May 17, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book very much. Plain to see that Russo is knows much about human nature. The story was quite believable. My favorite character was Miles who I related to a lot. The story was both very sad and humorous. ( )
  shesinplainview | Mar 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 132 (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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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 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)

(summary from another edition)

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