Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys Title: The Burgess Boys
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Read: April 30, 2014

Summary: 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. goodreads

Review: This book was a huge disappointment and I did not expect it to be what it was. First and foremost, I hated the Burgess family. Bob could have been redeeming and maybe in the end, Zach, but as a whole, they are not very good people. Jim Burgess is the absolute worst! He he mean to everyone around him and very self-involved. Susan is worthless. She's a horrible mom and completely oblivious to the person she has raised; poor Zach. You can understand why he did what he did. More on that later. Even Jim's wife is less than likable. No bueno.

Then we get to the story. I thought the story would focus more on the "freak accident" and how it affected the family but I was way wrong. Yes, it was mentioned a few times but it doesn't really affect any of the grown up kids other than the fact that they all blame themselves. Maybe Strout could have led us to believe that this was the reason they were all so screwed up, but if that was her goal, she failed miserably.

The story is actually about the Somali population in the small Maine town the Burgesses grew up in and how the community doesn't accept them. It turns out, Zach decided to throw a pig's head into a mosque. This event brings the Burgess brothers home because they are supposed to clean up the mess he has made. I found myself not caring what happened to any of the characters. I didn't care if Zach got in trouble or how his uncles helped him. I just didn't care about the characters and was unimpressed with the story line.

And finally, WTF was the deal with the prologue?!?! What was the point of it? It's some sort of metafiction but completely useless. We could always focus on the last line of the prologue which is "Nobody ever knows anyone." This could be a theme throughout the entire book but it wasn't well done if that was the point.

The reason this book got 2/5 instead of 1/5 is because the writing was well done and the book made sense. I finished it and it wasn't painful to read (just not very interesting.) I didn't like the story or the characters, and had a hard time getting through it, but as a writer, Stout is not bad. Which is probably a insult because she is a Pulitzer Prize winner, but this book just crashed and burned for me.

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