Marigold's Reviews > Empire Falls

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
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's review
Mar 10, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: award-winners, family-saga, fiction-2000s
Read in March, 2012

Three & a half for this Pulitzer Prize winner that focuses on people & events in a small, dying town in Maine. I liked the writing - nothing self conscious or fancy here - just GOOD writing & good story telling - love that! Russo is a genius at writing dialogue, as well as striking that delicate balance between comedy, drama & pathos. I liked the plot overall, though in some ways I felt like I've read or seen movies with this same basic story before. Small town guy once had big dreams which were never realized. You meet his family & his friends. Most of them are just good people trying to get through life. Some of them have really interesting character quirks. Small town guy turns out to be a hero in his own quiet way. I liked the characters, though - & this is one of those books that almost felt like I wasn't reading a book - Russo has this much power as a writer - I kept feeling like I actually knew these people & each time I picked the book up, felt that I was just coming back into their conversations - like meeting up with your friends after work!

Things I didn't like so much - the "flashback" chapters in italics - I am not sure I liked this structural element at all - & the typography made these chapters really difficult to read. (Don't MAKE me get out my dollar store magnification glasses!!) I wonder if some of the details in these chapters could have been revealed in a different way.

Sometimes when I read novels about characters who are so heavily influenced by the past, it makes me sad because I get the feeling that maybe we all have less control over our own destinies than I like to think. So that gave me an overall "slightly depressing" feeling in relation to this book. Then again, maybe in the end Miles & his family will break out of their rut - I like to think that's where Russo was taking them. See, Miles is my friend, so I want him to be happy!

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