The Burgess Boys

BurgessBoys_TP_flat_1500H.jpg

1.

On a breezy October afternoon in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Helen Farber Burgess was packing for vacation. A big blue suitcase lay open on the bed, and clothes her husband had chosen the night before were folded and stacked on the lounge chair nearby. Sunlight kept springing into the room from the shifting clouds outside, making the brass knobs on the bed shine brightly and the suitcase become very blue. Helen was walking back and forth between the dressing room—­with its enormous mirrors and white horsehair wallpaper, the dark woodwork around the long window—­walking between that and the bedroom, which had French doors…

Continue reading ▸

Listen to an audio sample ▾ 


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. Bob, a Legal Aid attorney, idolizes Jim and has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan, urgently calls them home.

Susan's teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble and she desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood. Long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationships 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, The Burgess Boys is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art.

New York Times Bestseller

One of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post • NPR • Good Housekeeping

Now in paperback

Also available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

[T]he broad social and political range of The Burgess Boys shows just how impressively this extraordinary writer continues to develop.
The Washington Post
Strout creates a portrait of an American community in turmoil that’s as ambitious as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral but more intimate in tone.
Time
[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.
Associated Press
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
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.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
What truly makes Strout exceptional—and her latest supple and penetrating novel so profoundly affecting—is the perfect balance she achieves between the tides of story and depths of feeling. . . . Every element in Strout’s graceful, many-faceted novel is keenly observed, lustrously imagined and trenchantly interpreted.
Chicago Tribune

 
BurgessBoys-audio.gif
 

A Reader's Guide to The Burgess Boys

 

The Burgess siblings each grew in different ways, according to who they were and who they thought they were. The country grew as well. A Somali community emerged in the whitest state of the Union, and people responded to this, as people have responded for years to immigrant populations everywhere. We know that some people carry a strong fear of the unfamiliar. Others are moved to immediately defend a vulnerable population. Most people, I think, fall somewhere in between, balancing their fears with a desire to be decent. And what this means, really, is that change takes time.
— Elizabeth Strout, "Going Through Old Papers"

Questions for Discussion ▸

"A Reader's Guide" is included in the paperback edition.