Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review - The Burgess Boys

The second book from April to catch up on was Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys (Random House, 2013, 320 pages). I was eager to read this one, as I have enjoyed two of Strout's previous books very much (Amy and Isabelle and Olive Kitteridge), and this had a lot of hype following her Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge.

This is the story of a dysfunctional set of siblings, two brothers and a sister, who must band together as best they can when the sister's troubled son gets into some serious trouble. Susan is the sibling who stayed behind in Maine while the two brothers (Jim and Bob) "escaped" as they view it. One is a very successful corporate attorney and one is a Legal Aid attorney, both in New York City. When Susan's son pulls a so-called-prank that turns into a hate crime investigation, the siblings are forced to come to terms with each other and their past...as best they can...as they struggle to help their sister and nephew.

While I did like the book, and it certainly kept my attention, it did leave me wanting more. This was rated as one of the best books of the year in a number of different places, and I am not sure I am in complete agreement with that. It was a good book, well written, but didn't resonate with me the way others have. Perhaps it was that the characters were not overly sympathetic, or that too many things were left unresolved. Or perhaps I was just in the mood for something more uplifting, which this was not.

A solid 3.5 stars out of 5, but not my favorite of Strout's books. It's probably my third favorite out of the three I have read, although still good, and a worthwhile read.

"She had never seen what she saw now; that her mother's fits of fury had made fury acceptable, that how Susan had been spoken to became the way she spoke to others. Her mother had never said, Susan, I'm sorry, I should not have spoken to you that way. And so years later, speaking that way herself, Susan had never apologized either.

And it was too late. No one wants to believe that something is too late, but it is always becoming too late, and then it is." (p. 254)

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