Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Burgess Boys” as Want to Read:
The Burgess Boys
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read excerpt* *Different edition

The Burgess Boys

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  28,632 ratings  ·  4,017 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERIncludes Elizabeth Strout’s never-before-published essay about the origins of The Burgess Boys


The Washington Post • NPR • Good Housekeeping

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 Fra
ebook, 352 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by Random House (first published January 1st 2013)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Burgess Boys, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Pamela Huxtable As The Burgess Boys is a novel, a work of fiction, I don't think it's appropriate to call it "bias." It's simply the narrator's point of view. It may…moreAs The Burgess Boys is a novel, a work of fiction, I don't think it's appropriate to call it "bias." It's simply the narrator's point of view. It may or may not be the opinion of the author. (less)
Eli the Minnow and The Coral Cave Adventure by David L. SterlingThe Headmaster's Wager by Vincent LamResurrecting Cybele by Jenifer MohammedSnow Tales and Powder Trails by Steve  BaldwinAdventure-Pom! by Sean Dryden
ebooks to read
15th out of 108 books — 7 voters
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Road by Cormac McCarthyAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled HosseiniThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Born in the 1950s - What we've read in 2014
107th out of 316 books — 21 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This novel was one of the most really really really OK books I have ever read. It was so OK that I will forget about it after I am done writing this.
Since the author of this book won a Pulitzer, I had higher expectations. In addition to the fact that the writing style was very cold and detached, the topic seemed derived and predictable. It was partly a story of family dynamics and the "ties that bind", but I found it very hard to care about the family. The characters in the family were lackluste
Elizabeth Strout has written another novel about Maine and its people, but unlike Olive Kittredge, which is more episodic, The Burgess Boys is a tightly woven novel about a family, its secrets, and how the guilt of one brother has defined his life, as well as that of his twin sister, their older brother, their spouses, and their children. It also traces downward spirals--some expected, some not--and the possibility (and limits) of change and redemption.

Shirley Falls, Maine, home to many displac
Kenneth P.
This novel poses a major question: do you understand that other guy, that other woman? Are you sure?

The book hit me between the eyes with the uncomfortable notion that we are imprisoned by our culture-- yes our beloved Thanksgivings and Christmases, our Midnight Masses, our Fourths-of-July, our sacred Yankees or Red Sox. It's all wonderful even as it blinds us.

For me, the book is all about understanding that other guy. Hell, the Burgesses are family and they struggle with the issue among themsel
i am one of those people who went all gaga about Olive Kitteridge, which i thought did a magnificent, magic job at showing how someone who is by all accounts quite petty and unpleasant is also tremendously, tenderly, wonderfully human.

this book is ambitious in scope -- unlike OK, it encompasses a couple of cities, a couple of states, and a number of communities. i am not saying that OK is not ambitious. its spelunking into the humanity of a not-very-likeable woman is spectacular and daring. it'
cue the music to the Brady Bunch theme song

Here's the story,
Of a lonely lady,
Who was bringing up her very lonely son.
He threw a pig's head in church,
Just for the heck of it,
Then he was on the run.

Here's the story,
Of the lady's brothers,
Who were scheming, competing, cheating on their own.
They were two men,
Telling lies together, but they were soon both alone.

Till the one day when the truth came to the surface,
and they knew that these were much more than ploys.
That this group,
Was really quite dysfu
A solid four-star read. You may have to persevere at the beginning, because just about every one of the main characters may make you want to smack him/her about the head and face repeatedly. I loved Olive Kitteridge, so I stayed with it. If not for Olive, I may not have. I'm glad I did.

The big story here is all of the familial relationships. Husband/wife, parent/child, sibling/sibling. There are some messed up family dynamics here, but all of the characters showed considerable growth throughout
Susan Emmet
I well remember the controversy in Lewiston, ME in 2006 when a pig's head was thrown into a Somali Muslim mosque. It's one of the key events in The Burgess Boys, Strout's latest novel. I loved Olive Kittredge; I almost loved The BBs.
Strout again interweaves stories and socio-political issues. I've lived in Maine for 46 years and yet still am labeled "from away." And this novel is largely about being "away" - from self, family, meaningful work, marriage, children, siblings, immigrants, tradition
I'm really conflicted on this one: I love Elizabeth Strout, I love her writing style and the way she gets in to her character's heads - I did not love this book. I wanted to, but I just disliked the characters, and I didn't always understand them or their motivations. I would still recommend it to fans of hers, but I was disappointed by it.
Maine Characters

I loved Strout’s "Olive Kitteridge" so I was hoping for the same positive experience with “The Burgess Boys”. I wasn’t disappointed. Strout is excellent at creating down to earth relatable characters and Bob and Jim Burgess and their sister Sue are not exceptions. Bobby is an appeals lawyer handling cases outside the courtroom. Jim is a high profile lawyer who won fame in his early career by successfully defending an infamous client. Sue is a single mother of a troubled son. What
I loved Olive Kitteridge, but I did not love this book. Both characters and story lines were poorly developed. I started out liking this novel. I thought the story with Zak throwing the pig's head into the mosque had great potential. But, it went nowhere. Why didn't Ms. Strout develop Zak's character more? Why did we never really know WHY he did that? Why did she make him so stupid...I mean, really, who in this day and age does not know that pigs might be offensive to Muslims? I never felt like ...more
I received an advanced copy of this book in a Goodread giveaway.

I'm conflicted about this book. I wanted to love it as I have read and loved Amy and Isabelle and Olive Kittridge. But it seemed like something was missing. It took me a long time to get into The Burgess Boys and to care about Jim, Bob, and Susan. Jim is an arrogant corporate lawyer with a sense of entitlement the size of New York. He treats his younger brother with complete disdain. Bob, who is insecure and awkward, idolizes Jim an
Gary  the Bookworm

I've never been to Maine. What I knew of it was shaped by a Doris Day movie from the 1950's about a plucky widow whose lobster business is almost ruined by a greedy railroad Titan, and by watching the Bush Presidents cavorting with their kinfolk in Kennebunkport. So until I started reading the novels of Elizabeth Strout, the Maine I knew was a seaside play land for WASP aristocrats and the people who fed them their lobster. Her debut novel Amy and Isabelle explores the tensions between a working
It would be difficult to top Olive Kitteredge, and indeed this novel did not. While the writing itself is lovely, I had three real problems with The Burgess Boys that made it hard for me to love:

(1) the incident at the heart of the novel--a teenage boy throws a pig's head into a Somali mosque in small-town Maine--is really just an excuse to look at the relationships between the people in that boy's family (his mother and two uncles, the "Boys" of the title). In one way, that's OK (the book is c
At first, I thought this book was somewhat, for lack of a better word, dull. I had just come from reading And The Mountains Echoed which was about family and surely Ms Strout's novel covering family as well had very stiff competition. While I thought the second half of the book was more engrossing and generally better written, it just could not seem to make up for the first half.

There is no doubt that Ms Strout has in this novel established characters that are very clear in their wants, needs,
Elizabeth Strout has yet again shown why she is such an accomplished writer, though I think she is really a grand "storyteller". The Burgess Boys gives us some sad and unlikable characters and pulls us into their story. For better or worse, we want to see how they turn out. Her stories aren't full of suspense, twist and turns, hot romance or action packed. They are the stories of real people living real lives.

The boys are as different as night and day, and the memories and roles that have shap
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book is a hard one for me to review, and I am waffling between three and four stars.

Here's the problem: I hate all the characters in this book. But I think the author intends for all of them to be equally flawed and unlikable, it helps to tell the story, but just the same, there was not a single character I was rooting for or hoping they would succeed and grow. The characters that would be most likely to receive that kind of connection were on the periphery - Zach, the troubled child who e
Diane S.
Take a dysfunctional family, raised in a small town in Maine by a mother who liked to yell quite a bit, and who raised some unlikable children, and one would usually have a novel no one would want to read. In Strout's daft hands, however, she is able to peel away the layers and make the reader want to take a second look. She gives us something, a reason maybe, and allows us to look deep inside these people and find what it is that makes them so unlikable. Once she accomplishes that, the reader i ...more
aPriL eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)
This is a subtle and layered story about a middle-class dysfunctional family. Yes, I know. Another one. Maybe you've had your fill of novels about how American families disintegrate for the year, but I must insist you read this one if you are a literary reader. It's different. I promise.

I admit to a certain strong cynicism I beat down within myself whenever picking up a suburban green lawn, 2.3 kid, two-car mid-life sandwich family story or a book which turns out to be a small-town whine about g
Danielle McClellan
Elizabeth Strout’s characters are often guarded, sometimes damaged, northern New Englanders, a fairly private group of individuals in real life; but here, under Strout's brush, they are closely rendered, exposed to the bright light with an even and unflinching hand.

I was thrilled to receive an early review copy of the Burgess Boys through GoodReads, as Olive Kitteridge and Amy and Isabelle were both favorites of mine. I think that this novel may be Strout’s best so far. The story of how the ten
Scott Rhee
Elizabeth Strout, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel "Olive Kitteridge" (a novel I have not read yet but has quickly risen to the top of my "to read" list), examines the fragile dynamics of an extremely dysfunctional family in "The Burgess Boys". It is an ugly, tension-filled tightrope wire walk through a family beset with latent resentment, denial, and life-altering secrets kept from one another. One realizes that the wire will snap at any moment, bringing the entire family crashing to th ...more
Because I read this book on my iPod, I was distracted frequently by something called"popular highlights" that I do not know how to turn off, in which people had underlined every passage of 'heavy portent,' that is, every passage that made an editorial comment on or philosophical summation of the state of affairs in the book. Those comments, germane and quotable as they may be, are not at all what I loved about this book. The multiple character points of view are perhaps clumsy, but they allowed ...more
The Burgess brothers find themselves in a few troubles personal, marital, and with family members. Their nephew, their sister’s son, takes up most of this story due to having himself involved in a very troubling incident.
This incident has me thinking of that Godfather movie where one man wakes up in his bed to find a head of a horse in his bed, imagine the shock and horror he felt at the grotesque and also the message the head carried.
The Burgess brothers find themselves helping their sister in
Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge is a magnificent book, and I expected that Burgess Boys would be similar. Alas, not so much.

Haunted by a tragic accident that killed their father years earlier, we watch three siblings in their adult lives. The story is told from a distance, in a detached manner, and this rendered the characters less real than I'd expect from an author like Strout. As the story developed, the characters did become more real and understandable, but by then their unpleasantness
I won this book as part of Goodread's first reads program.

This was my first Strout novel. I know she won a Pulitzer for Olive Kitteridge, so I was expecting a well written, engaging novel. I was left lacking on both fronts.

I didn't care for any of the characters. I understand flawed characters make for the best subjects, but there has to be something redeeming about them to make me invested in their lives. I didn't find anything I liked about the characters until so late in the novel that I was
It took me a very long time to really get into this book. Honestly, if it weren't Elizabeth Strout, I would have given up after 100 pages, when I still didn't care about the characters and felt the story was going nowhere. But I love Olive Kitteridgeso much that I was confident the investment would pay off.

And, in the end, it did. At about 150 pages, everything clicked and I found the second half of the book hard to put down.

I still can't tell you I loved the characters or the story, but I love
It was rather disappointing overall. I kept reading thinking there has to be more to the story. It seemed to have a strong beginning with several "leads" on which the story could have focused. I was disappointed because the lead story in the book seemed to fizzle out somewhere in the middle. Soon, I felt left with wondering how it would all come together in the end. It seems that the title should be taken literally as the novel did review the lives past and present of the "Burgess Boys" and thei ...more
Though the events and characters are quotidian, I found myself completely drawn to them. I was fascinated by the Burgess family dynamics and could totally relate to the idea of living with those childhood "truths" we were all led to believe about ourselves and our siblings. I found myself caring about the Burgesses and the people whose lives they influenced BECAUSE they are ordinary and flawed. No heroes here-- except a wise Somali gentleman with a generous and understanding heart. Quietly compe ...more
Dana Stabenow
Susan's son Zach throws a pig's head through a mosque window in Maine. The Muslim community of Somali immigrants is up in arms, as is the white community who made them welcome, even if they do persist in calling them Somalian. Susan's brothers Bob and Jim ride to a reluctant rescue, but they've got problems of their own so enormous that their nephew's pale into insignificance by comparison. Which doesn't do Zach any good, so he basically has to rescue himself. Good for him.

As well written as Oli
This review will contain some cursing. Consider yourself warned, because I don't think I can hold back on this one.

I did not read Olive Kitteridge because it never sounded interesting to me, but I do recall more than one customer at the bookstore telling me that they didn't enjoy the book because the characters were so, so grossly unlikable.

This is my first Elizabeth Strout but I'm noticing a trend.

This book is ostensibly about the Burgess siblings - big brother Jim and twins Bob and Susan -
Gosh, I don't know what to say about this book. One of the words that keeps coming to mind is dysfunction! Everyone and I mean everyone in this story was suffering in some way or another. At times, while reading I felt incrediably sad. I put the book down many times thinking that I would not go back to it, but I did. I was drawn to the story and I was drawn to the characters.

Why did Zach do what he did? Why was he so unhappy? Why was Bob such a sad sack? Would Susan ever be happy?

As I was readi
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Bound Together: Burgess Boys Discussion 21 56 Dec 22, 2014 02:15PM  
Lillie M. Evan Li...: April 2014--Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout 1 6 Apr 24, 2014 09:34AM  
The Book Club: Post-meeting Comments 4 10 Mar 19, 2014 01:00AM  
The Book Club: The Burgess Boys Pre-Meeting Comments 3 13 Jan 28, 2014 01:04PM  
The Book Club: Elizabeth Strout 3 8 Jan 21, 2014 08:37AM  
La Stamberga dei ...: I ragazzi Burgess di Elizabeth Strout 1 7 Aug 11, 2013 05:18AM  
  • Benediction (Plainsong, #3)
  • Someone
  • Middle C
  • A Nearly Perfect Copy
  • Flora
  • Life After Life
  • A Thousand Pardons
  • And the Dark Sacred Night
  • Ordinary Grace
  • The Woman Upstairs
  • The Humanity Project
  • The Good House
  • Schroder
  • News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories
  • The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards
  • Falling to Earth
  • Claire of the Sea Light
  • You Are One of Them
ELIZABETH STROUT is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteri ...more
More about Elizabeth Strout...
Olive Kitteridge Amy and Isabelle Abide with Me The Best American Short Stories 2013 The Fort

Share This Book

“And it was too late. No one wants to believe something is too late, but it is always becoming too late, and then it is.” 15 likes
“You have family", Bob said. "You have a wife who hates you. Kids who are furious with you. A brother and sister who make you insane. And a nephew who used to be kind of a drip but apparently is not so much of a drip now. That's called family".” 11 likes
More quotes…