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The Burgess Boys

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  46,587 Ratings  ·  5,451 Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes 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 Fr
ebook, 352 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by Random House
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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)
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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
Kenneth P.
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
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
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
May 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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'
The Hook - Is having a grandson with the last name of Burgess enough reason to read a book? I guess it is as that was my motivation.

The Line - ”And she learned - freshly, scorchingly - of the privacy of sorrow.”

The Sinker - The Burgess Boys was a surprise “really liked it”. I’m not certain what I was expecting but I definitely got more.

When a teenager, Zach throws a pig’s head into a Somali Mosque during Ramadan, it sets a series of events in motion as you well can imagine. Zach's arrest brings
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : The Burgess Boys - Nevisande : Elizabeth Strout - ISBN : 1400067685 - ISBN13 : 9781400067688 - Dar 320 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2013
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Che cosa farò, Bob? Non ho più una famiglia.
Sì che ce l’hai, - rispose Bob. - Hai una moglie che ti odia. Tre figli che ce l’hanno a morte con te. Un fratello e una sorella che ti fanno impazzire. E un nipote che una volta era una nullità, ma a quanto pare ultimamente lo è un po’ meno. Questo è ciò che si definisce una famiglia

Innegabile la vena ironica di Bob, e quindi, della Strout: ma entrambi credono davvero in questa asserzione, e io mi dissocio.

Foto di Wim W
Susan Emmet
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago I was looking to supplement non-fiction readers about the French and Somali communities in an intro-to-college "College and Community" class with a short fiction read about the region or state. I'd used Sex, Drugs & Blueberries the year before, but it was sad (and I agreed it was) for looking-for-hope students to see that nothing bad ended or good came of it (a life lesson, itself!) in Crash Berry's dismal presentation of the lives of some young adults in Northern Maine. (Met ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diane S ☔
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
In keeping with my new "rules", if it doesn't appeal move on to something that does. I was interested in the beginning, but that passed very quickly and when the Somali issue arose I began to feel it was just too much like watching the news (which I promise I get enough of). I may not have given this a fair chance, but that is OK, I have limited time and I need to find those books that speak to me.

I have another Strout on my shelf and will give that one a go soon. I did like the two of her books
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-reads, 2013
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
What a wonderful characterization story. Driven by the sibling relationship of the Burgess family, the bond is tested and stretched to its breaking point. Jim and Bob Burgess, both working in the law ring, have the natural brotherly bond. Bob has always looked up to Jim. Jim is the All Around American All Star brother. Always doing, and saying the right things, and made famous by a renown court case. Lovable Bob, ruined by a childhood accident, just tries to bumble along, the real glue of the Bu ...more
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
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
Ron Charles
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-favorites
After “Amy and Isabelle,” “Abide with Me” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Olive Kitteridge,” no one should be surprised by the poignancy and emotional vigor of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel. But the broad social and political range of “The Burgess Boys” shows just how impressively this extraordinary writer continues to develop. In these pages, Strout untangles a moldy knot of filial tensions in one family while tracing the prejudices that continue to reverberate through American culture since Sep ...more
Le correzioni

«Credi sempre che i tuoi figli saranno uguali a quelli del catalogo di Sears. [...] Ma non lo sono.»

Integrazione, famiglia, razzismo, famiglia, terrorismo, famiglia, post 11 settembre, famiglia, Iraq, famiglia, Lehman Brothers, famiglia, Maine, famiglia, New York, famiglia disfunzionale.
Ma com'è che questa Strout mi sembra tanto Franzen con la sua abitudine a mescolare tutto in un minestrone cosmico?

Sono dovuta arrivare a poco meno di centocinquanta pagine dalla fine, a fronte delle
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, arc-egalley
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 -
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: may-2013
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,
aPriL does feral sometimes
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
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I'm a fan of Strout. This wasn't her best--too many characters, I think--but it was a really thorough plumbing of family dynamics, the corrosiveness of guilt and subterfuge, emotional and substance abuse, and it even featured short explorations of xenophobia and city/town people incompatibilities to boot.

Being a member of a three-child family myself, this often resonated with me. I think as a youth I was much more of a Jim. As an adult, I find myself worrying (is that the right word to associat
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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...
“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.” 23 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".” 13 likes
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