The Burgess Boys: A Novel

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The Burgess Boys: A Novel

by Elizabeth Strout

Random House Publishing Group | March 26, 2013 | Hardcover

The Burgess Boys: A Novel is rated 3 out of 5 by 1.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • NPR • Good Housekeeping

Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Strout’s “magnificent gift for humanizing characters.” Now the acclaimed author returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature.
 
Haunted by the 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 possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten 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.
 
With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with readers long after they turn the final page. Tender, tough-minded, loving, and deeply illuminating about the ties that bind us to family and home, The Burgess Boys is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art.

Praise for The Burgess Boys

“What truly makes Strout exceptional . . . is the perfect balance she achieves between the tides of story and depths of feeling.”Chicago Tribune

“Strout’s prose propels the story forward with moments of startlingly poetic clarity.”The New Yorker
 
“Elizabeth Strout’s first two books, Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle, were highly thought of, and her third, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. But The Burgess Boys, her most recent novel, is her best yet.”The Boston Globe
 
“A portrait of an American community in turmoil that’s as ambitious as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral but more intimate in tone.”Time
 
“[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again. . . . At times [The Burgess Boys is] almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and . . . startling riffs of gripping emotion.”—Associated Press
 
“[Strout] is at her masterful best when conjuring the two Burgess boys. . . . Scenes between them ring so true.”San Francisco Chronicle
 
“No one should be surprised by the poignancy and emotional vigor of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel. But the broad social and political range of The Burgess Boys shows just how impressively this extraordinary writer continues to develop.”The Washington Post

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 9.6 × 6.68 × 1.24 in

Published: March 26, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400067685

ISBN - 13: 9781400067688

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Burgess Boys This was a book club pick that I stuck with because it was our book club book, otherwise I might have bailed early on. The muted, unhappy characters and the difficult subject matter did not entice me to keep reading. I cannot discredit the writing quality of a Pulitzer Prize winner, but couldn't at least one character have been happy and fulfilled? Well, okay. Maybe the Unitarian minister, Margaret Estaver, experienced some joy in her life, but she was not a main character, so she couldn't cut through the gloom enough to uplift me. Elizabeth Strout's story begins with a female childhood friend of the Burgess family reminiscing with her mother about the life events of the Burgesses. This daughter, grown and living in New York with a husband her mother doesn't like, talks over the phone with the mother who still lives in Maine. At the end of one of their conversations, the daughter announces that she's going to write the story of the Burgess kids, so we know that the story that follows is told from her perspective and with her biases. Interestingly, Strout doesn't circle back to this woman and her mother at the end of the book, and that felt like a dropped thread. I would have enjoyed (a) being reminded of her and (b) getting a wrap-up perspective on it all. The Burgess family has three children: Jim, Bob and Susan. Jim becomes a famous trial lawyer after winning a high-profile case similar to that of O.J. Simpson. Bob leads a troubled life haunted by a childhood trauma for which he feels responsible. Susan raises her teenaged son, Zach, alone after her husband divorces her and flees to Sweden. Zach, a depressed teenager who lives in a black bedroom, throws a frozen pig's head into a mosque, and that sets off the turbulent series of events that make up this novel. We must read the book with the biases of the narrator in mind. We know she draws her version of events from neighbourhood gossip and second-hand news, so everything is suspect to begin with. We guess that her portrayal of Helen, the oldest Burgess boy's wife, as a spoiled and self-absorbed could arise from Helen's curt dismissal of her in a public place. The tensions between the New York crowd and Maine residents is a recurring theme, reflecting the narrator's own inner battle to accommodate her New York life and her Maine roots. The name of the book is The Burgess Boys not the Burgess Kids, which says a lot about the narrator's feelings about Susan. Strout covers substantial psychological ground in this novel. Strout digs into sibling relationships, mother/daughter tensions, the danger of secrets, the poisonous effects of guilt, and the intricacies of marriage. She sympathetically creates a fair representation of the struggles of Somali immigrants. The other likeable character (although not happy) is Abdikarim Ahmed, a Somali man haunted by the memory of the attending police officers laughing at the sight of the bloody pig's head in the mosque. This book club pick brought a split-decision from our group. We lauded the literary writing and the importance of the topic, but we struggled with the dropped threads and the depressing overtone.
Date published: 2014-06-04

– More About This Product –

The Burgess Boys: A Novel

by Elizabeth Strout

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 9.6 × 6.68 × 1.24 in

Published: March 26, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400067685

ISBN - 13: 9781400067688

About the Book

The acclaimed author of "Olive Kitteridge" returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature. Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, the Burgess brothers are called home from their successful lives in New York.

Read from the Book

1 On a breezy October afternoon in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Helen Farber Burgess was packing for vacation. A big blue suitcase lay open on the bed, and clothes her husband had chosen the night before were folded and stacked on the lounge chair nearby. Sunlight kept springing into the room from the shifting clouds outside, making the brass knobs on the bed shine brightly and the suitcase become very blue. Helen was walking back and forth between the dressing room—­with its enormous mirrors and white horsehair wallpaper, the dark woodwork around the long window—­walking between that and the bedroom, which had French doors that were closed right now, but in warmer weather opened onto a deck that looked out over the garden. Helen was experiencing a kind of mental paralysis that occurred when she packed for a trip, so the abrupt ringing of the telephone brought relief. When she saw the word private, she knew it was either the wife of one of her husband’s law partners—­they were a prestigious firm of famous lawyers—­or else her brother-­in-­law, Bob, who’d had an unlisted number for years but was not, and never would be, famous at all. “I’m glad it’s you,” she said, pulling a colorful scarf from the bureau drawer, holding it up, dropping it on the bed. “You are?” Bob’s voice sounded surprised. “I was afraid it would be Dorothy.” Walking to the
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From the Publisher

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • NPR • Good Housekeeping

Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Strout’s “magnificent gift for humanizing characters.” Now the acclaimed author returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature.
 
Haunted by the 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 possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten 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.
 
With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with readers long after they turn the final page. Tender, tough-minded, loving, and deeply illuminating about the ties that bind us to family and home, The Burgess Boys is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art.

Praise for The Burgess Boys

“What truly makes Strout exceptional . . . is the perfect balance she achieves between the tides of story and depths of feeling.”—Chicago Tribune

“Strout’s prose propels the story forward with moments of startlingly poetic clarity.”—The New Yorker
 
“Elizabeth Strout’s first two books, Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle, were highly thought of, and her third, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. But The Burgess Boys, her most recent novel, is her best yet.”—The Boston Globe
 
“A portrait of an American community in turmoil that’s as ambitious as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral but more intimate in tone.”—Time
 
“[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again. . . . At times [The Burgess Boys is] almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and . . . startling riffs of gripping emotion.”—Associated Press
 
“[Strout] is at her masterful best when conjuring the two Burgess boys. . . . Scenes between them ring so true.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“No one should be surprised by the poignancy and emotional vigor of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel. But the broad social and political range of The Burgess Boys shows just how impressively this extraordinary writer continues to develop.”—The Washington Post

About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

Editorial Reviews

“Strout’s prose propels the story forward with moments of startlingly poetic clarity.” — The New Yorker   “Elizabeth Strout’s first two books, Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle, were highly thought of, and her third, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. But The Burgess Boys, her most recent novel, is her best yet.” — The Boston Globe   “Strout’s greatest gift as a writer, outside a diamond-sharp precision that packs 320 fast-paced pages full of insight, is her ability to let the reader in on all the rancor of her characters without making any of them truly detestable. . . . Strout creates a portrait of an American community in turmoil that’s as ambitious as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral but more intimate in tone.” — Time   “[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again. . . . At times [ The Burgess Boys is] almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and . . . startling riffs of gripping emotion.” —Associated Press   “[Strout] is at her masterful best when conjuring the two Burgess boys. . . . Scenes between them ring so true.” — San Francisco Chronicle   “No one should be surprised by the poignancy and emotional vigor of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel. But the broad social and political range of The Burgess Boys shows just how impres
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