Jennifer's Reviews > Empire Falls

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
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Mar 12, 09

Read in March, 2009

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.
Sold!
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 many Rust Belt cities where residents who stayed behind struggle to get by and wonder what they missed by not leaving. Miles, the main character, almost made it out when he went away to college, but he came home to care for his dying mother. Two decades later he's still managing the local diner, where much of the novel is based. His wife has left him for the owner of the local gym, the woman he's loved since high school thinks he's too nice a guy to ever date. It'd be easy to feel sorry for him, but he's too smart and pulled together to take pity on and you know they're the ones losing out.
The novel moves at a small town pace. But honestly, the plot, while it holds together and left me wondering what was coming, isn't that important. There's a lot going on, but I didn't feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything. It's like Russo has dropped the reader into this world to grab a seat at the diner and watch small town life unfold. But it's not really the cliche small town life we all know, it's more modern and tarnished. Russo writes so beautifully and with empathy for his characters, who are allowed to have conflicting emotions and behavior, sometimes all at the same time. By the end I was sad to leave because I knew these people and they were so enjoyable to follow. I really hated Max for most of the book, but then it's not that his character changes, but you see him in a new light and by then end, I liked him, though he still drove me crazy.
I was a bit envious of Russo who seems to be able to pin people and their feelings down so well. Sure, he's creating these characters so he should know their dearest secrets and every emotion, but they're so realistically written that it feels like he's reading the mind of an actual person.
I could go on, but really, just read it. I think I'm in love with this book.

Here's a line I love from it that is kind of the point: Lives are rivers. We imagine we can direct their paths, though in the end there's but one destination, and we end up being true to ourselves only because we have no choice.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Daniel I'm going to have to insist on a full review, not just a star rating, Jennifer. Sorry about that. It's got to be done though.


Jennifer Daniel wrote: "I'm going to have to insist on a full review, not just a star rating, Jennifer. Sorry about that. It's got to be done though."

I will, promise. Just haven't had time yet. by saturday.


Daniel Excellent. Will look for it. You're good people, Jennifer.


Jennifer Daniel wrote: "Excellent. Will look for it. You're good people, Jennifer."

I keep telling you that.


Daniel And you respond to comments on GoodReads in a blindingly fast manner.


Jennifer Daniel wrote: "And you respond to comments on GoodReads in a blindingly fast manner."

it emails me and I know if I don't respond right away, I'll push it off and forget


Daniel Wonderful review, Jennifer. I'll have to read it. Sounds like a realistic, schtick-free book written for actual adults -- a rarity these days. Count me in. Wonder if the book club would like it. (Keep in mind they liked "Twilight.")


Suzanne Great review!


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