Reviews for Burgess Boys
Booklist Reviews 2013 January #1
Pulitzer Prize-winning Strout (Olive Kitteridge, 2008) delivers a tightly woven yet seemingly languorous portrayal of a family in longtime disarray. Brothers Jim and Bob Burgess, and sister Susan, are mired in a childhood trauma: when he was four, Bob unwittingly released the parking brake on the family car, which ran over their father and killed him. Originally from small Shirley Falls, Maine, the Burgess brothers have long since fled to vastly disparate lives as New York City attorneys. Egoistic Jim is a famous big shot with a corporate firm. Self-effacing Bob leads a more low-profile career with Legal Aid. High-strung Susan calls them home to fix a family crisis: her son stands accused of a possible hate crime against the small town's improbable Somali population. The siblings' varying responses to the crisis illuminate their sheer differences while also recalling their shared upbringing, forcing them finally to deal with their generally unmentioned, murky family history. Strout's tremendous talent at creating a compelling interest in what seems on the surface to be the barest of actions gives her latest work an almost meditative state, in which the fabric of family, loyalty, and difficult choices is revealed in layer after artful layer. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This is the first novel from Strout since her Pulitzer Prize-winning, runaway best-seller, Olive Kitteridge, and anticipation will be high. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #2
Two squabbling brothers confront their demons, their crumbling love lives and a hate crime case that thrusts them back to their Maine roots. The titular boys of this follow-up to Strout's Pulitzer-winning 2008 short story collection, Olive Kitteridge, are Jim and Bob Burgess, who are similar on the surface--lawyers, New Yorkers--but polar opposites emotionally. Jim is a high-wattage trial attorney who's quick with a cruel rejoinder designed to put people in their place, while Bob is a divorcé who works for Legal Aid and can't shake the guilt of killing his dad in a freak accident as a child. The two snap into action when their sister's son in their native Maine is apprehended for throwing a pig's head into a mosque. The scenario gives Strout an opportunity to explore the culture of the Somalis who have immigrated to the state in recent years--a handful of scenes are told from the perspective of a Somali cafe owner, baffled by American arrogance, racism and cruelty. But this is mainly a carefully manicured study of domestic (American and household) dysfunction with some rote messages about the impermanence of power and the goodness that resides in hard-luck souls--it gives nothing away to say that Jim comes to a personal reckoning and that Bob isn't quite the doormat he's long been thought to be. Speeding the plot turns along are Jim's wife, Helen, an old-money repository of white guilt, and Jim and Bob's sister, Susan, a hardscrabble repository of parental anxiety. Strout's writing is undeniably graceful and observant: She expertly captures the frenetic pace of New York and relative sluggishness of Maine. But her character arrangements often feel contrived, archetypal and predestined; Jim's in particular becomes a clichéd symbol of an overinflated ego. A skilled but lackluster novel that dutifully ticks off the boxes of family strife, infidelity and ripped-from-the-headlines issues. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 December #1
As in her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteredge, Strout promises to make everyday small-town life luminous and absorbing. Brothers who have fled upstate Shirley Falls for New York City return when their sister needs help with her troubled teenage son. [Page 58]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #2
The Burgess siblings are in disarray. Decades earlier, the "boys," Jim and Bob, fled their childhood home of Shirley Falls, ME, to practice law in New York City. Jim is a flashy uptown defense attorney who once won a high-profile celebrity murder case. His meek younger brother, Bob, the ultimate agent of conciliation, is a Legal Aid lawyer. When Bob's twin sister, Susan, calls from Shirley Falls to say her odd teenage son, Zachary, has thrown a pig's head into the mosque of the community's Somali population, an unspeakably offensive violation of the Muslim faith, the brothers scramble to throw down legal cover. Events spin out of control, Zachary's crime goes national, tensions rise, and charges against the boy escalate. Meanwhile, the abrasive relationship among Jim, Bob, and Susan erodes as the shattering moment of their childhood--the death of their father, which was blamed on four-year-old Bob--bubbles to the surface. VERDICT Pulitzer Prize-winner Strout (Olive Kitteridge) takes the reader on a surprising journey of combative filial love and the healing powers of the truth. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]--Beth Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI [Page 77]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #1
Strout's follow-up to her 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner Olive Kitteridge links a trio of middle-aged siblings with a group of Somali immigrants in a familiar story about isolation within families and communities. The Burgesses have troubles both public and secret: sour, divorced Susan, who stayed in the family's hometown of Shirley Falls, Maine, with her teenage son Zachary; big-hearted Bob, who feels guilty about their father's fatal car accident; and celebrity defense lawyer Jim, who moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. When Zachary hurls a bloody pig's head into a Somali mosque during Ramadan, fragile connections between siblings, the Somalis, and other Shirley Falls residents are tested. Jim's bullish meddling into Zach's trial hurts rather than helps, and Susan's inability to act without her brothers' advice cements her role as the weakest link (and least interesting character). Finally, when Jim's neurotic wife, Helen, witnesses the depth of her husband's indifference and Bob's ex-wife, Pam, finds the security of her new life in Manhattan tested by nostalgia for Shirley Falls, Zach's fate--and that of the Somalis--becomes an unfortunate afterthought. Strout excels in constructing an intricate web of circuitous family drama, which makes for a powerful story, but the familiarity of the novel's questions and a miraculously disentangled denouement drain the story of depth. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC