Vincent's Reviews > Empire Falls

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
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's review
May 30, 2010

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bookshelves: fiction
Read in May, 2010

The lesson learned, and what I feel is the core thesis, becomes apparent early in the novel in a scene between the town’s matriarch and the protagonist Miles. In this brief scene they discuss needs and wants and how they relate to power. The novel should have the subtitle: Self-Efficacy 101. Boiled down, the people with power (ability to move towards happiness) are those that can clearly articulate what they need and distinguish it from what they want. This concept crosses through the fairly pedestrian plot points linking the novel into a coherent reflection on the choices we make that bring us closer or farther away to satisfaction and self-realization.

The idea resonated with me so naturally it warranted a list. What I came up with was a list of particular instances that make me happy and then tie it back to an overarching quality, object or goal. Not resolutions or list of new gadgets. It was a list of particular instance that I felt content and what surrounded me at that time.

I was distracted by the cookie cutter characterization where individuals are either good or bad. It’s very LOTR; with Minty (father and son), Janine and Mrs. Whiting able to do nothing good or pure. And Miles, Tick, and Bea the unassailable saints weathering trials and tribulations. The abandoned plotline concerning the Priest (where was his cathartic revelation?) and religious overtones also disappointed.

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