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Empire Falls

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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  109,287 ratings  ·  4,431 reviews
Welcome to Empire Falls, a blue-collar town full of abandoned mills whose citizens surround themselves with the comforts and feuds provided by lifelong friends and neighbors and who find humor and hope in the most unlikely places, in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Richard Russo.

Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him
...more
Paperback, First Vintage Contemporary Edition, May 2002, 483 pages
Published April 12th 2002 by Vintage Books (first published 2001)
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Lew Amack I had to abandon Empire Falls. It is nearly 500 pages of very fine print, and exhaustive to read. I have too many other reading tasks, like The Muelle…moreI had to abandon Empire Falls. It is nearly 500 pages of very fine print, and exhaustive to read. I have too many other reading tasks, like The Mueller Report, and could not meet my deadline, so had to resort to online summaries.(less)
Scott Their meeting is not explicit. Russo implies that they got together as a result of Miles' desire to avoid marrying Cindy Whiting.

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  109,287 ratings  ·  4,431 reviews


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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
Candi
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
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Algernon (Darth Anyan)

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
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Arah-Lynda
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.
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David Putnam
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I came to this book in a unique way. I read that Paul Newman had read this book and called Richard Russo and said, "I want to do this movie." I've always loved Paul Newman and respected his opinion. I picked up the book and loved it. The book clicks along as a character story until the end where it takes a wicked turn which I didn't see coming. The writing is smooth and economic, the characters are real and easy to get to know. But most of all the author created the near perfect "Fictive Dream," ...more
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
Matthew Quann
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
Shelves: pulitzers, favourites
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
Paula
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Paula by: Pulitzer
Winner of the Pulitzer prize 2002

What a charming book!

Empire Falls in about everyday life in a small New England town that is in decline. Humorous, but also sad. Everyone in our bookclub was glad to have read this book. Just wonderful...

5 out of 5 stars
Kemper
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
Fabian {Councillor}
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
...more
Carol
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
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.
Brina
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
School is coming to a close this week. This year has been doubly challenging with the kids learning at home on line. I am looking forward to not having to wake kids up for school, reminding them to log into class, and being on call just in case someone needs help with their homework. Although this year was cut short for me, summer vacation also means not working in my role at school a few mornings a week. Summer for me usually means baseball games and a trip to the beach and I’m holding out hope ...more
Jason
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
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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
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
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Rick
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.
Linda
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
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Dem
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 O
...more
Sandra
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-lit-us
This is a wonderful book!
It follows the every day lives of the residents of Empire Falls, a small town in Maine, that has seen better days.
I loved the ‘setting the scenes’ chapter at the beginning of the book, showing the town in a more prosperous time when the mill and shirt factory were open and employment was high.
Now Miles manages the Empire Grill restaurant. He has a uncomfortable relationship with the matriarch of Empire Falls founding family, Mrs Whiting, who is also the owner of Empire
...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
EMPIRE FALLS is one of my favorite novels. The audio book version is superb, as it is narrated by Ron McLarty. HBO also did a fine job with the film production.
Jennifer
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.
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 man
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Pedro
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe there’s nothing better than a good long novel. I also believe there is nothing as despairing and frustrating as an overlong, meandering and over descriptive one. Empire Falls belongs to the second category. It felt like it was 2000 pages long to me. There were times I actually wanted to throw it against the wall and so I had to keep reminding myself that I had to work a few (too long) hours so I could afford my kindle.

I started suspecting I was not going to love this book by the time
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Cathrine ☯️
3.5★
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
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Andrew Smith
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Nobody’s Fool and the follow-up Everybody’s Fool. Russo introduced me to a delicious group of characters inhabiting a small town in upstate New York. Lots happened but at the same time nothing much happened – I guess what I’m saying is that all of the happenings were small ones, which seemed to suit the setting and the cast admirably. So the question for me was could he do it again?

This time the setting is a small town in New England, once dominated by a shirt factory establi
...more
Rasmus
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
...more
Renata
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.
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
...more
Daniel
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 http://www.goodreads.com/review/s ...more
Char
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!
Jessica Jeffers
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.
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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.

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