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Empire Falls

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  93,554 Ratings  ·  3,768 Reviews
Richard Russo—from his first novel, Mohawk, to his most recent, Straight Man—has demonstrated a peerless affinity for the human tragicomedy, and with this stunning new novel he extends even further his claims on the small-town, blue-collar heart of the country.

Dexter County, Maine, and specifically the town of Empire Falls, has seen better days, and for decades, in fact, o
Paperback, 483 pages
Published April 12th 2002 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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Virginia The writing is enjoyable and very, very detailed, with intricate conversations too, and it has taken me about 2 weeks to get through this particular…moreThe writing is enjoyable and very, very detailed, with intricate conversations too, and it has taken me about 2 weeks to get through this particular book, so I'd save it until you have more time to read. (less)
Susan Mohawk, Nobody's Fool, Everybody's Fool in that order. Nobody's Fool
is the first of the two "Fool" books. Paul Newman played Sulley the main…more
Mohawk, Nobody's Fool, Everybody's Fool in that order. Nobody's Fool
is the first of the two "Fool" books. Paul Newman played Sulley the main character in a movie of the same movie. DON'T see the movie until you've read the book. It's a disappointment for a PN movie. Once you've read the book it's fun to see.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jim Fonseca
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I suspect that most people reading this review do NOT live in the hometown where they were born. You didn’t marry your high school sweetheart and/or, going on forty, you’re not still secretly in love with an old sweetheart who still lives in town. You don’t live in a couple of sleazy rooms above the diner you run. Your ex-alcoholic brother and your borderline anorexic teen-aged daughter don’t flip burgers and wait tables for you. Your ex-wife’s new husband doesn’t hang out drinking coffee at the ...more
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Arah-Lynda by: Matthew Quann
The small Maine town of Empire Falls has seen better days.  The local and once booming timber and textile industries have run their course and all that remains is the abandoned and decrepit real estate of what once was.  

The blue collar workers of this small New England community struggle to find the few jobs remaining that allow them to keep the wolf at the door and food on the table, ever hopeful of revitalized opportunities.

And it is here that we meet Miles Roby, manager of The Empire Grill.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2016

coup de foudre = A sudden unexpected event, especially an emotional one; love at first sight.

The reviews that I find the most difficult to write are not the negative or even the glowing ones, but the ones about books that that may be not the best written or the best plotted but touch me on a personal level, the ones that strike close to my inner core. I haven’t read any other novel by Richard Russo, but starting on Empire Falls felt like going to a party where you don’t know anybody, starting
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"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. People speak of selfishness, but that’s another folly, because of course there’s no such thing."

I’ve been pondering this quote for some time now after having finished Richard Russo’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Empire Falls. Is it true that we have no choice in where our lives take us? Do we only perceive that we have choi
Michael Finocchiaro
This was my first taste of Richard Russo's wonderful prose and lifelike characters. The book follows the lives of Miles Roby and his family in the dying industrial town of Empire Falls, Maine. The town itself is beautifully described throughout as the book transpires over a school year - Miles' daughter Tick's senior year at Empire High. I really loved how Russo writes dialog (both exterior and interior) and his sense of humor and irony. Most of the time, I felt like I was sitting in the Empire ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Matthew Quann
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
Shelves: favourites, pulitzers
In this past year of reading I’ve found it easy to get through a book quickly, decide whether I enjoyed it or not, and move on to the next book in the infinite pile. Most books I’ll read in a week or so, and I approach my leisure time in a workman-like manner: it is relaxation time, but it also follows a pretty regular schedule. Rare are the books that cause me to slow down and delay finishing a novel simply to prolong the enjoyment provided by its reading. Empire Falls is that type of book. It ...more
Now and then, you find a book which manages to enthrall you so deeply that you simply know you will return to it over and over again, perhaps to embrace the writing style, perhaps to meet these characters again or perhaps to simply let yourself be immersed by the wonderful atmosphere of that specific book.

"Empire Falls" is such a book. I loved every single page of this book, and yet I know there are readers who would rip this book apart, saying things like "nothing ever happens" or "where is the
Dec 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-kindle, 2011, reviewed
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
B the BookAddict

Winner of the 2002 Pultizer Prize, this novel has been reviewed many, many times in the last decade. One of those rare times when all the hype is actually true. To that end, I quote:

[Russo] is one of the best novelists around....As the pace quickens and the disparate threads of the narrative draw tighter, you find yourself torn between the desire to rush ahead and the impulse to slow down” The New York Times Book Review

Immensely satisfying...[Russo is] an unpretentious master of fictional tech
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Cathrine ☯️
I am somewhat conflicted in my response to this one. A lengthy pulitzer prize winner brimming with small town Americana and loved by many, I was often distracted while reading with the tedious detail and slow pace of this character-driven novel. It seemed way longer than 483 pages. But Russo is a great writer and there were passages of sheer brilliance, humor, and heartbreak depicting working class people in a dying town.

Empire Falls is controlled by a rich black widow who owns it all and ha
Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Empire Falls is not something I would have picked up on my own, but it came to me highly recommended, so I put a hold on the audiobook at my library and it finally came in.

This was a wonderful book and Ron McLarty is an excellent narrator. I can't really add to what hundreds of people have already said, so I'll just say I enjoyed the hell out of this tale, where nothing much really happens, but I feel like I know everyone in this town intimately. Highly recommended!
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A serious novel about small towns where everyone knows everyone else - and has for generations. I loved this book, as melancholy as it was. I loved the history of the characters and the town itself - although you really could not separate the two. Russo is one of my new favorite authors. He has such compassion for his characters.
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jr Bacdayan
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
Russo delicately weaves together the stories of the residents of a small town in Maine struggling through economic downtimes. Russo's characters are complex, his prose is warm and his plot is intriguing without being too convoluted or self-important. One of the best books I have ever read, I couldn't pick up anything else for two days after finishing this one.
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pulitzer, 5-stars
wonderful book and movie!
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A sprawling, leisurely-told story with a large, well drawn cast of characters, Empire Falls caught and held my interest from the first page. Russo spends a great deal of time setting things up and introducing all the characters and subplots and I found myself truly caring about the characters and what happens to them as I read the book. The book takes place in the fictional Maine town of Empire Falls. Once a thriving manufacturing center, the town has fallen onto hard times due to globalization ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 21, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Marilyn C.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
4.5 Stars
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2015 Reading Chal...: Empire Falls by Richard Russo 9 61 Dec 03, 2015 04:17PM  
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RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven previous novels; two collections of stories; and Elsewhere, a memoir. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries.
More about Richard Russo...

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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.” 155 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?” 99 likes
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