The Burgess Boys
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
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.
Reviews and Praise for The Burgess Boys
“[A] gracefully written novel. Grade: A.”
“Wincingly funny, moving, wise.”
“[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again.”
“…beautiful and detailed writing. Strout’s manifestations of envy, pride, guilt, selflessness, bigotry and love are subtle and spot-on.”
“How do you build empathy for the characters in your book? Make them suffer. That’s an old trick of the trade, and Elizabeth Strout, the Pulitzer-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, uses it brilliantly in The Burgess Boys…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. Grade: A.”
“As in her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, 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.”
—O: The Oprah Magazine
“After Amy and Isabelle, Abide with Me and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, 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. In these pages, Strout untangles a moldy knot of filial tensions in one family while tracing the prejudices that continue to reverberate through American culture since Sept. 11…She’s particularly adept at subverting our prejudices, complicating our easy judgments of people we think we know…And Strout unpacks our racial stereotypes, too, filling in the full spectrum of expectations and misunderstandings that are so often obscured in the brash primary colors of the news…As she showed in Olive Kitteridge, Strout is something of a connoisseur of emotional cruelty. But does anyone capture middle age quite as tenderly? Those latent fears — of change, of not changing, of being alone, of being stuck forever with the same person. 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.”
—Ron Charles, Washington Post
“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.”
“The Burgess Boys returns to coastal Maine with the addition of one element that her award winner lacked: 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.”
—Town & Country
“[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again…the distance between Bob and Jim—painfully wide at times, lovingly close as well and turning on ‘a terrible secret’ from childhood — gives the novel a level of intrigue and human depth with lasting impact. Strout’s writing style is all her own, at times almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and, just as a scene seems to be low-key, carried away by startling riffs of gripping emotion…. Strout knows and vividly evokes the territory of Maine and New York City, her characters, their inner lives and fears and — beyond the saga of a family in crisis — the healing power of mercy.”
“Reading an Elizabeth Strout novel is like peering into your neighbor’s windows. Where Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge was a photo album of characters finessing domestic dynamics, her latest novel, The Burgess Boys, is a similarly artful depiction of how three siblings, battered by circumstance, secrets and familial expectation, stay loyal to each other despite very familiar failings…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.”