The Burgess Boys: A Novel

By Elizabeth Strout
Publisher:Random House, (3/26/2013)

Average Rating:
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2.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

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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 Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge
“Perceptive, deeply empathetic . . . Olive is the axis around which these thirteen complex, relentlessly human narratives spin themselves into Elizabeth Strout’s unforgettable novel in stories.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her. . . . [Strout] constructs her stories with rich irony and moments of genuine surprise and intense emotion. . . . Glorious, powerful stuff.”—USA Today
“Funny, wicked and remorseful, Mrs. Kitteridge is a compelling life force, a red-blooded original. When she’s not onstage, we look forward to her return. The book is a page-turner because of her.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Deeply human . . . Though loneliness and loss haunt these pages, Strout also supplies gentle humor and a nourishing dose of hope.”—Booklist (starred review)
Olive Kitteridge still lingers in memory like a treasured photograph.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Washington Post Book World • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Seattle Post-Intelligencer • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Christian Science Monitor • The Plain Dealer • The Atlantic • Rocky Mountain News • Library Journal
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Silver's Reviews's thoughts on "The Burgess Boys: A Novel"
updated on:5/21/2013

The BURGESS BOYS is a journey into the lives of Jim, Bob, and Susan Burgess. They were brothers and sister whose relationship with each other fell apart after their mother died.   

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.

Mildly Unleashable

"The Burgess Boys: A Novel"
By Elizabeth Strout

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

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Elizabeth Strout is the author of Abide with Me, a national bestseller and Book Sense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. She is on the faculty of the MFA program at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lives in New York City.

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