Friday, October 4, 2013

The Burgess Boys is not Olive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys is a novel centered around a dysfunctional family from Shirley Falls, Maine. The brothers have relocated to New York City while their sister remains in their old hometown. But each has its own issues and none of them get along so well. When their nephew gets in trouble for throwing a pig’s head into a mosque (yes, this is really in the story) for no apparent reason, the brothers are pulled back to town to help with legal issues. Slowly, their history from childhood is revealed and eventually we can understand why they are the people they have grown into. But, really, this story is not just about the boys. A great part of the story centers around the sister and her son and the wife and ex-wife of the brothers. It’s fragmented. A great deal of the book covers the immigrants that have taken up resident in Shirley Falls. I enjoyed learning about the Somalis, but I have to say the story seems to jump from one character to another. It is entertaining but it doesn’t come close to Strout’s previous book, Olive Kitteridge.

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