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Empire Falls (HBO Tie-In)by Richard Russo
2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
An Atlantic Monthly Best Book of 2001
Careful: Laboratory tests confirm that Richard Russo's prose promotes addictive behavior among committed readers of fiction. His fifth novel, Empire Falls, turns its own pages.
Booklist noted, "Russo follows up his rollicking academic satire, Straight Man (1997), with a return to the blue-collar milieu featured in his first three novels and once again shows an unerring sense of the rhythms of small-town life, balancing his irreverent, mocking humor with unending empathy for his characters and their foibles."
In fact, Empire Falls infuses the blue-collar landscape of Russo's earlier work with the high comedy of Straight Man. The result is a compassionate and hilarious story, the most ambitious novel of his career. "These books seem to be getting bigger both in the number of pages and the number of things I'm tackling," the author admitted during his visit to Powell's. Notably, the new novel presents his largest cast of characters yet. Sample any two reviews of the book and you'll discover that few readers agree who is best.
Salon.com calls Tick "surely one of the most appealing adolescents ever to grace the pages of fiction." The Baltimore City Paper likes Max, whose "confidence is almost touching, a warped expression of unconditional parental love." The Detroit Free Press can't decide: "Even relatively minor [characters] — Tick's vastly untalented art teacher — are fully formed. Russo's eye and ear for small-town life are evident on every page."
Empire Falls, Maine, is a shell of its former self; of this there can be no argument. The dying factory town is controlled by a domineering widow who seems to relish its demise. One might say the same of Miles Roby, manager of the Empire Grill, above which Miles lives now that his soon-to-be ex-wife's fiance is sleeping in his bed. Thank goodness for Tick, then, his daughter, who'll one day escape the doomed town if Miles has anything to say about it.
"Writing about blue-collar folks is something I've been doing right from the start," Russo explained. "It's a world I know pretty well, and its people seem worth talking about to me. I like most of these folks quite a bit."
"Richard Russo first made his reputation with a series of blue-collar novels that suggested a more antic and expansive Raymond Carver. But by the time he published Straight Man, in 1997, Russo was clearly interested in breaking new ground, and that foray into academic farce showed off his comic timing and sneaky construction to superb effect. Now comes Empire Falls, the author's most ambitious work to date." James Marcus, Atlantic Online (Read the entire Atlantic Online review here)
Synopses & Reviews
With Empire Falls Richard Russo cements his reputation as one of America's most compelling and compassionate storytellers.
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's 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 in a work that overflows with hilarity, heartache, and grace.
Now an HBO miniseries event starring Ed Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Helen Hunt, Paul Newman, Robin Wright Penn, Aidan Quinn, and Joanne Woodward.
"Cause for celebration...easily his most seductive book thus far....Rich, humorous, elegantly constructed, rooted in the bedrock traditions of American fiction." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Even the minor members of Russo's large cast are fully fleshed, and forays into the past lend the narrative an extra depth and resonance. When it comes to evoking the cherished hopes and dreams of ordinary people, Russo is unsurpassed." Publishers Weekly
"In a warmhearted novel of sweeping scope....[Russo] shows an unerring sense of the rhythms of small-town life, balancing his irreverent, mocking humor with unending empathy for his characters and their foibles." Booklist
"In Empire Falls, the inhabitants seem so real that the smallest incidents are engaging, and the horrors that erupt will catch your breath. Try reminding yourself it's only a book while praying their dreams somehow break into life." The Christian Science Monitor
"Empire Falls is one of those rare novels you don't want to end, and it will surely send newcomers to Richard Russo's earlier books. A reader couldn't hope for much better than that." Detroit Free Press
"He stands alone as the Stendhal of blue-collar America....There are bound to be other, flashier novels published this year, but very few will find such a deep, permanent place in one's heart." Tom Bissell, Esquire
"The crowning achievement of [Russo's] remarkable career." Kirkus Reviews
"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...explodes with surprises that also seem, in retrospect, like inevitabilities....One of the best novelists around." A.O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review
"Empire Falls is dense in the best sense of the word....Each paragraph is packed with concise, precise phrases, and hardly a word is wasted in 483 pages....
"Russo writes with a warm, vibrant humanity....A stirring mix of poignancy, drama and comedy." The Washington Post
About the Author
Richard Russo lives in coastal Maine with his wife and their two daughters. He has written four others novels — Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, and Straight Man — and a collection of short stories, The Whore's Child.
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