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Empire Falls

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  80,033 ratings  ·  3,167 reviews
With Empire Falls Richard Russo cements his reputation as one of America’s most compelling and compassionate storytellers.

Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick, who needs all his help surviving the l
Paperback, 483 pages
Published April 12th 2002 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve Sckenda
May 04, 2015 Steve Sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The Defeated
Recommended to Steve by: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The simple truth is not all of us become the men we once hoped we might be.” --Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian.

Miles Roby did not grow up to become the man he once hoped he might be. How do you measure success? Accomplishments? Wealth? Distance Travelled? Kindness? Character? Once the brightest boy in his class, Miles flips burgers at his diner, The Empire Grill, which he leases from Mrs. Whiting, the town’s domineering heiress who runs the town as her fiefdom.

Though Miles considers him
Empire Falls, Maine is a town that’s best days are long behind it. The mill and factory that used to be the main employers have been closed for years, and the only person around with two dimes to rub together is the very rich Francine Whiting who essentially owns and controls everything worth having in the area. Miles Robey was on the verge of earning his college degree and escaping Empire Falls forever when he returned home to care for his dying mother and ended up working for Mrs. Whiting as t ...more
I’ve really fallen in love with the characters in this one.

To me, the most difficult thing to do in literature is develop a character. Character-driven novels are a gamble because if they are not handled correctly, they can crash and burn before they’ve taken off. Plot-driven novels are a safer bet, but then you’d miss out on an opportunity to really provoke your reader. I liked Empire Falls primarily because of how real Miles and Max and Mrs. Whiting, etc. felt to me.

This book encompasses what
Mar 16, 2008 Linda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everybody, but especially those with more than a passing acquaintance with small-town life
Shelves: fiction
This was a book my brother really enjoyed and recommended to me as recently as this summer. So it went on my list. :o)

My brother passed away on October 9, 2007. Today (well, since it's after midnight, technically, yesterday) is his birthday, so it seems fitting that I've finally gotten around to posting this review today.

When I finish a book, I find I kind of have to let things simmer in my brain a bit before I can really parse out all my reactions to it. I’m not sure why, but this one took me
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was the BEST book I've read in quite a while. I had actually seen the HBO miniseries based on this a few years back and enjoyed it but didn't think about reading the book until someone told me it's everything Twilight isn't: well-written, complicated, fully-developed characters, good story, strong dialogue, etc, etc.
That's not to say there's any reason to compare it to Twilight. It's not about vampires or in the same genre or league.
The Maine town of Empire Falls is probably like man
Bittersweet story about everyday life in a small town, or so it seems. I have to admit that I was a little bored at the beginning of it (the prologue was a little dry, in my opinion), but once I got into the present-day scenario, Russo gradually brought the storyline to a powerful culmination and held my interest to the end.
Jul 01, 2008 Rasmus rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anybody.
I bought this book having only read on the back of it's cover and seeing that it had won the Pulitzer. I half-way expected to find it sligthly boring for that same reason, simpy because I tend to like books with a fair amount of action. And "Empire Falls" has very little action.

But man, this book is so well written, I had to stop and curse out loud several times, being a writer myself. Small, everyday situations become intensely interesting, as the web of relationships becomes apparent. It felt
Jan 03, 2010 Daniel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Daniel by: Jennifer netherby
Shelves: 2009
This is one of those rare occasions when I wish GoodReads were to offer half-star ratings, because then I could give "Empire Falls" four and a half stars. It was almost a five-star novel in my estimation, but I had a few quibbles with it. It's nevertheless an excellent book, and one I don't feel much need to review at length; my friend Jennifer, who both recommended the book to me and lent me her copy, has already written a brilliant assessment. Her review is at ...more
2.5 Stars
Empire Falls by Richard Russo is a story about relationships and life in a small town called Empire Falls in Maine.

The stroy is extremely well written and the characters are very well developed. I felt at times I was looking in the windows of the characters homes and watching them live life on a daily basis. The relationship between the characters was so well portrayed and a wonderful sense of time and place comes across in the novel. Having said that I still just found the Novel OK
Jr Bacdayan
How do you cope with life when all your dreams stayed as they are, just dreams? How do you tell yourself “I have a happy life” when you know that what you yearned will never be? How do you start every morning with a smile? How do you keep afloat?

Empire Falls is the story of a small town who dreamed less than they should, and the few people who did and were the worse for it. It’s the story of unrealized dreams, an unrealized love, and an undone marriage. It’s the story of those who stayed, lookin
If future archaeologists have nothing but novels written over the past 20 years or so to judge our society by, they will come to the following conclusions:
1. Nearly everyone used foul language (although perhaps the future archaeologists won't know that it was foul language).
2. Nearly everyone thought about sex most of the time.
3. Almost all adults were either divorced, in the process of getting a divorce, or remarried after having been divorced.
4. Young people spent a portion of their lives in a
Ian Pardo
As I put down EMPIRE FALLS after its last page, it suddenly dawned on me: "I have to read another book now, don't I." From the first page, I fell in love with the wonderful but flawed characters of Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winner, and leaving the town of Empire Falls, Maine hit me with the force of parting with a dear friend.
The book begins with a brilliant and unforgettable image but becomes increasingly less memorable as the book continues. Russo's style is pleasantly lulling and subtle--appropriate especially here for the description of the slow demise of a midland maine town. But the book goes on too long, and the ending is completely unsatisfying.
Svetlozara Ilieva
Това е книга за житейския избор и умението, или липсата на такова, да се справяме с последиците. Сцената е западащо американско градче, притежавано и манипулирано от една единствена фамилия, героите - любопитен калейдоскоп от архетипове. По стечение на обстоятелствата, които бавно излизат на повърхността, Майлс, от младеж с бъдеще, се е превърнал в мекушав човечец на средна възраст с жена, която скоро ще му стане бивша и дъщеря тийнейджър, която ще тръгне по неговия път надолу, ако той не намери ...more
Will Byrnes
This is a great American novel, following the intertwined lives of the residents of Empire Falls, Maine. Empire Falls is a declining mill town, lorded over by the baronial Whiting clan. It covers several generations, focusing mostly on the present day and recalling the past. Like all small towns, this is one with secrets, good guys and bad, but all the characters are drawn richly, with respect. There is wisdom here, perception and blindness, short joys and long regrets. This is a book that sings ...more
A small town in Maine. I could almost describe it from memory of my early years as a seasonal visitor there. The characters are so real, and we have a "silver fox" in our community, too. Teachers have to love the description of the art teacher's scene. The novel is wry and poignant, one of the best.
"Diverting one's attention from the past was not the same as envisioning and embarking upon a future." (p. 19) While this seems to be the theme of Empire Falls by Richard Russo, my biggest problem with this novel is that there doesn't seem to be any move toward the future in this novel. Everyone in the book seems to be so entangled in the misdeeds of their parents and grandparents, as well as their own, that they can't cut free and live that future.

Even when the hopes and dreams of the parents a
What I found to be really remarkable about this book is its ending, not because it's so action-packed (especially in comparison to the rest of the book) but because the reader's sense of foreboding builds so subtly throughout the book until one can figure out which character it will be to cause the inevitable catastrophe.

Actually, this entire book could be a study in subtlety, because the nuances in each character are so lightly illustrated as to catch the unsuspecting reader off-guard. This is
Keep in mind that it's been a while since I read this, but...

This book read like Die Hard: The Morality Play.

Not one character had a believable motivation, so when a vignette had run its course, Russo had nothing left to do but to jump ahead in time a little bit and let the next vignette recount the dramatic change that occurred in the gap between.

Kinda like John McClaine looking past his bare feet at a hall filled with shattered glass... cut to the next scene and he's pulling glass out of his f
After a bit more than four chapters:

I continue to have a hard time with this. I find it extremely depressing. There is humor, but it is not the kind I like. It is sarcastic, mean humor where you are supposed to laugh at the stupidity or crude behavior of people. I protest; I like to laugh with people in happiness, not at people for our weaknesses. There is a priest that is demented and he wants to hear confessionals so he can hear what is going on and then he tells others. Now I don't think tha
Ruth Turner

Extremely well written with wonderful characters that I genuinely cared about.

I found the middle of the book dragged a little, and the ending was tied up a little too neatly, but otherwise an exceptional read.

This author knows how to create people and places that stay with you after the ending. I'm looking forward to reading more of his books
Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, offers the best of what is largely considered passé in the American novel. Rich characterization, hard-won insight and slow-seething drama vie for prominence in the story of Miles Roby - father, son, brother, ex-husband and manager of the Empire Grill, struggling to make a go of it in a small Maine township last-gasping its way to ruin.

The style is conversational; the first hundred pages a gossipy chat that serves to introduce our major
David Lentz
Empire Falls is a beautifully crafted, inventive and substantive character-driven novel. Having lived in college for four years in a milltown in Central Maine, in places, the novel seemed almost more realistic than the actuality of dwelling in the fabric of the milltown. That's possible only because Richard Russo has a talent for making both his vividly sketched blue-collar and blue-blooded characters really come alive. The credible story line is unafraid to assume some creative risks and the re ...more
Where has this book been all my life?? Ok, Khay, I know you and Yitzchak have raved about it but somehow each time I tried it I couldn't get into it, and finally last week I gave it one last shot and was totally hooked. It reminds me of a higher quality Maeve Binchy in Russo's ablity to draw such colorful, consistant characters who get a rise out of you and all that small town flavor. This was EXACTLY what I needed when I was looking for something light but gripping (ie, NOT The Manny) - well, i ...more
I really, really like Russo. It's easy to plow through -- 480 pages gone in nothing flat, but the characters nonetheless come to life. For my sake, it doesn't hurt that his protagonists tend to be middling middle-aged nice-guys. But Russo is at his best when it comes to the oddball supporting cast -- the cantankerous Max Russo, the abrasive Minty clan, "batshit" Father Tom. I thought this book to be a step short of "Straight Man", but that's not putting it down much.

The wonder about this novel i

Going to a concert tonight. John Grant. John Who? I hear you say …yes, the things I do for my family.

At the same venue this author is giving an interview. Read this back in the day when I read literature as opposed to books. Seriously good book.

This Festival is starting at 2 today until about 11 tonight with different musicians and authors. The only TWO that I want to see/hear are clashing at 9 o’clock tonight!!!

This book is full of the kind of hyperbole I just can't get behind. Miles was so so hapless, his daughter was so thin and wore a backpack that was so heavy it shook the room whenever she dropped it, his ex-wife was such a super bitch, that other guy was so obnoxious, his mother was so very beautiful, his father equally repulsive. They never came out of their boxes. Boring. I would have preferred an exaggerated plot, but nothing interesting every happened.
An award winner, deservedly so. More depth than Nobody's fool, but Russo's humour still intact.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I really need to go back and give this one a second reading. This was the first Richard Russo novel I ever read. I remember enjoying the plot and the characters, but sometimes it seemed endless to me, especially with all the flashbacks. Now that I have come to love Richard Russo's works, I may see it differently. You have to get used to the slow development of characters and relationships. Once you do, Russo's novels are a real pleasure to read.

A few good quotes I copied from Empire Falls:

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Richard Russo (born July 15, 1949) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. Born in Johnstown, New York, and raised in nearby Gloversville, he earned a B.A. (1967), a M.F.A. (1980), and a Ph.D. (1979) from the University of Arizona.

More about Richard Russo...
Straight Man Bridge of Sighs Nobody's Fool That Old Cape Magic Elsewhere

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“And there comes a time in your life when you realize that if you don't take the opportunity to be happy, you may never get another chance again.” 129 likes
“What if all everybody needed in the world was to be sure of one friend? What if you were the one, and you refused to say those simple words?” 81 likes
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