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The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
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The Burgess Boys (edition 2014)

by Elizabeth Strout (Author)

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1,9391875,626 (3.7)258
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.
Member:thelistener
Title:The Burgess Boys
Authors:Elizabeth Strout (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster UK (2014), 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

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    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (sturlington)
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    The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (sturlington)
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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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Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)
It was rather disappointing overall. I kept reading thinking there has to be more to the story. It seemed to have a strong beginning with several "leads" on which the story could have focused. I was disappointed because the lead story in the book seemed to fizzle out somewhere in the middle. Soon, I felt left with wondering how it would all come together in the end. It seems that the title should be taken literally as the novel did review the lives past and present of the "Burgess Boys" and their sister. There was a sense that the author was trying to portray the characters and how their lives have been impacted by their childhood and then by a family secret which is revealed. The truth of the characters eventually mold their futures whether positive or negative. I was disappointed because the strong moral sense of the story seemed to be "lost" or under scored.

www.bookwormreviewblog.blogspot.com ( )
  marquis784 | Feb 15, 2020 |
Strout tries to make the Burgess family sympathetic by giving them a difficult upbringing, but it doesn’t work. They’re all assholes apart from Bob. Susan and Jim start out jerks and they stay that way. Accept it or don’t read the book.

Basically it’s a family drama that I didn’t quite understand. Jim and Bob have moved away from the flyspeck town in Maine where sister Susan has remained. They’re not close, but when Susan’s dopey kid does a stupid thing (throws a pig’s head into a makeshift mosque), both brothers come running. They’re always on the phone to each other as well. It’s weird, but it’s a device that keeps the story moving so you have to accept that, too.

Helen baffled me a bit - what does she do? She’s a non-working mother with grown kids and all she seems to do is garden and shop. Luckily she has a pile of money of her own, but she’s pretty blank.

Bob was harder for me to understand. Both siblings heap abuse on him that is so over-the-top that I don’t know why Bob bothers with them knowing they’ll both just insult him over and over again. He’s got a touch of the martyr about him because he got blamed for dislodging the gears of the car that ran over his father. Guilt complexes make you do penance where none is warranted I guess and boy does Bob take their shit. I’d have told them to fuck off long ago.

Jim is, to quote Al Pacino, this large-type asshole. And his self-pity when he finally gets a clue about how the universe really works is trying in the extreme. What is it about white men that makes them so dense? I guess it’s because, to some extent, the world really does revolve around them and unless they’ve had some major tragedy early in their lives, they really don’t get that the world is unfair and they can’t control anything except their own behavior. Women usually figure this out before puberty. They don’t flail into middle-age wringing their hands about how something went to shit and they couldn’t fix it. Oy vey. When Jim is the author of his own destruction I didn’t have one ounce of sympathy for him. Although the way Adriana plays him is bloodless, he can't even imagine for a second that he is being played. She knows he'll willingly be her victim and so it's hard to blame her for going for it. Too many women have too little power to make you condemn her. Hart puts a little hope in there at the end, but Helen is basically a jerk, too, and I hope they both are alone for the rest of their sad little lives.

The insight into Somali culture and their reaction to washing up on American shores was interesting and, while not absolutely germane to the plot, fleshed out the situation in Maine a lot more. I thought Susan’s reaction to visiting New York City was very much the same and thought it might make her more sympathetic, but she’s too much of a jerk to draw that parallel.

Overall though, it was an engrossing and well-written book if not full of people you’d want to have over for dinner. ( )
  Bookmarque | Jan 25, 2020 |
This book resonated with me because, like the Burgess boys of the title, my family suffered a tragedy when I was a baby. I always wonder how growing up with this great sadness affected me, and all of us, how we related to each other and how it shaped who we became. How things might have been different.

With these same questions at its center, the novel follows the Burgess brothers and their sister as adults. The defining event of their lives was the death of their father in a tragic accident which was caused by one of the boys, although he was only 4 years old at the time. Through their individual stories, many sweeping issues are explored, including mass immigration and its effect on communities; how race, religious, and class differences cause people to misunderstand each other; the importance of personal responsibility, compassion and forgiveness. ( )
  AngeH | Jan 2, 2020 |
The lives of the three Burgess siblings, Jim, Bob, and Susan, have been laid out on tracks that begin with their father's death in an accident. Susan still lives in a small town in Maine with her teenage son, but the Burgess boys have moved on to jobs as lawyers in New York.

Even in adulthood, Susan and Bob idolize their older brother Jim, despite his verbal abuse and condescension. While Bob's and Susan's marriages both ended badly, Jim's family life looks like a picture in a frame. But when Susan calls on her brothers to help her son out of some trouble, the siblings' precarious identities, so tied up in one another and in their past, begin to unravel.

It's no Olive Kitteredge, but Strout still draws characters with observant nuance and deeply identifiable emotions. The book's misfortune is that its author has already written a much better one with which to compare it. ( )
  rhowens | Nov 26, 2019 |
Story of three adult siblings drawn back together to deal with a possible hate crime committed by one sibling’s son in their hometown of Shirley Falls Maine.
As always, the author has a way of drawing you in and wrapping you into the family and the surroundings. ( )
  readingfiend | Mar 24, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my husband

Jim Tierney
First words
My mother and I talked a lot about the Burgess Family. "The Burgess kids," she called them.
Quotations
Back in New York, calling from my twenty-sixth-floor apartment one evening, watching through the window as dusk touched the city and lights emerged like fireflies in the fields of buildings spread out before me, I said, "Do you remember when Bob's mom sent him to a shrink? Kids talked about it on the playground. 'Bobby Burgess has to see a doctor for mentals.'"
"Kids are awful," my mother said. "Honest to God."
We did this kind of thing, repeated the stuff we knew.
And so it began. Like a cat's cradle connecting my mother to me, and me to Shirley Falls, bits of gossip and news and memories about the Burgess kids supported us.
A short pause, and then Bob said, "Yeah," his voice dropping into an understanding so quick and entire–it was his strong point, Helen thought, his odd ability to fall feetfirst into the little pocket of someone else's world for those few seconds.
She was thin as kindling.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
Haiku summary
Did Bob kill father?
Did Zach act out a hate crime?
And what about Jim?

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