writermala, June 18, 2013 (view all comments by writermala)
The Burgess family is portrayed in this book with such extraordinary clarity that I began to feel they were part of my immediate circle. In today's world where dysfunctionality is the norm, this family's unity and Jim and Bob's running to the aid of Zach and Susan when they are in need is touching. The story is woven neatly and there is not a single needless character or event. I just loved it from beginning to end.
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Joanne Haley, May 22, 2013 (view all comments by Joanne Haley)
Another great read by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout. The way she builds her characters is captivating and she's done it again with the Burgess Boys. Her narrative cuts right to the bone making you feel like you had grown up with the Burgess Boys and could feel their feelings and identify with their relationships with each other & their world in general. This family's stories are so relevant to our times and the consequences of their actions are what we see all around us everyday. Each word she chooses to build their story is so carefully chosen and beautifully written that each time I opened the book I could feel the author's artistic abilities! Loved it and it kept me up into the night reading because it was too hard to put down!
THE BURGESS BOYS centered on family, feelings, secrets, lies, and on Zachary's being disrespectful of Somali immigrants which caused problems for the Burgess family who already had many problems of their own. You will feel the tension among the three siblings as they try to solve this dilemma, and you will also see how it brings them closer.
Jim and Bob had become courtroom attorneys with Jim being the more successful one. Bob left the courtroom and went to the appeals court, and Susan is the one who stayed in their hometown and is now burdened with what her son did. She definitely needed her attorney brothers for this situation. She preferred Jim but Bob had to help her with Zachary's problem.
When Bob arrived at his twin sister's house, he didn't like what he found in terms of how Susan lived. He was sure this didn't help with how quiet and withdrawn Zachary seemed. Jim finally did intervene with the courts, and thought he had helped, but he wasn't too happy about helping his sister get her son out of this mess. As usual, Bob was in the middle of it all or completely left out.
The interaction of the main characters was very well done. Bob and Jim definitely were portrayed as rivaling siblings with Jim being the cruel one as he threw barbs and cruel comments at Bob. This wasn't anything different from their childhood, though. Their sister remained the sister in the background.
I enjoyed the great descriptions and well-developed characters Ms. Strout employed, but I wasn't a great fan of the storyline. I really was looking forward to this read and am a bit disappointed. THE BURGESS BOYS seemed to be a bit slow even though it was interesting to learn about the legal system and the life of the Somali people.
The ending focused on the Burgess children as adults thinking about their lives and alluded to the fact that your childhood shapes you as an adult in terms of how you feel about yourself and your life choices. I do have to say THE BURGESS BOYS did touch on some good subjects.
I can't say it was my favorite read, but it wasn't my least favorite. The major problem for me was the type of book it was. I like more of a saga. To me it seemed more like stating facts or a narrative.
The book did get better in the last 100 pages, but to me it still was not that interesting and was a little disorganized. 3/5
This book was given to me from a win on LibraryThing and the publisher without compensation in return for an honest review.
ikram, April 16, 2013 (view all comments by ikram)
Strout writes such wonderful women characters. Both Olive and Susan are solid women. They are so aware of themselves and know they walk to a different drummer. They don't know how to make the leap to the mainstream. There are so many women who just go through their days, stoic and steadfast who ask for so little. They just want a little understanding. Jim's wife, Helen, is an interesting woman too. I was prepared to dislike her little WASP personage but she had such depth to her that you can't help but liking her. Her struggle with an empty nest was surprising and so real that it changed my opinion of her. These are all women you may not want to have a cup of tea with but your appreciate them. Strout paints them with such nuances that they come alive. Susan's refusal to turn up the heat in her house really sums her character up.
This is a lovely novel handled by a deft hand. It handles so many issues without any preaching. By the end of the book you really know and appreciate this family and their struggles. This is really a must read and I am recommending this to my book club. Be careful, it could break your heart.
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Mary Carolyn, March 30, 2013 (view all comments by Mary Carolyn)
In anticipation of this eagerly awaited fourth novel by Elizabeth Strout, I have just reread each of her earlier ones. I found some of the middle sections of The Burgess Boys somewhat repetitive and I would have welcomed more details about the ending incidents. Overall, however, I found this latest novel compelling and wonderful. I agree with all the praise lavished on Elizabeth Strout's first three novels and I think all these qualities also apply to The Burgess Boys. On reflection,I may even conclude that the few sections I found somewhat tedious are necessary components of the story and more details about the ending would weaken its power.
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Random House -
The Burgess Boys is a story about family — what it is, what it isn't, and what it can become. For their entire lives, a childhood tragedy hangs over Bob, Jim, and Susan Burgess. It takes another tragedy (of sorts) to shake apart the tedium that has flattened their lives. Strout's three siblings each undergo major character change and growth, which is seamlessly woven into this straight-from-the-headlines story. Strout reminds us that when there is no hope, when there is no help, there is still family.
by Ron Charles, The Washington Post,
"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....She's particularly adept at subverting our prejudices, complicating our easy judgments of people we think we know....There seems no limit to her sympathy, her ability to express, without the acrid tone of irony, our selfish, needy anxieties that only family can aggravate — and quell."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"Strout conveys what it feels like to be an outsider very well, whether she's delving into the quiet inner lives of Somalis in Shirley Falls or showing how the Burgess kids got so alienated from one another. But the details are so keenly observed, you can connect with the characters despite their apparent isolation....[A] gracefully written novel."
by O: The Oprah Magazine,
"Strout deftly exposes the tensions that fester among families. But she also takes a broader view, probing cultural divides....Illustrating the power of roots, Strout assures us we can go home again — though we may not want to."
by Good Housekeeping,
"Wincingly funny, moving, wise."
"With her signature lack of sentimentality, a boatload of clear-eyed compassion and a penetrating prose style that makes the novel riveting, Strout tells the story of one Maine family, transformed. Again and again, she identifies precisely the most complex of filial emotions while illuminating our relationships to the larger families we all belong to: a region, a city, America and the world."
by Town & Country,
"The Burgess Boys returns to coastal Maine [with] a grand unifying plot, all twists and damage and dark, morally complex revelations....The grand scale suits Strout, who now adds impresario storytelling at book length to the Down East gift for plainspoken wisdom."
by Associated Press,
"[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."
by Minneapolis Star Tribune,
"Reading an Elizabeth Strout novel is like peering into your neighbor's windows....There is a nuanced tension in the novel, evoked by beautiful and detailed writing. Strout's manifestations of envy, pride, guilt, selflessness, bigotry and love are subtle and spot-on."
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