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The Burgess Boys

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  38,075 Ratings  ·  4,812 Reviews
Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stri ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Random House (first published March 26th 2013)
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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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Community Reviews

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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
Apr 16, 2015 M 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
Kenneth P.
May 22, 2013 Kenneth P. 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
Jun 23, 2013 Sheila 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
Jul 18, 2013 jo 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'
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
Susan Emmet
Apr 27, 2013 Susan Emmet 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
Dec 20, 2012 Lauren 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.
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 16, 2013 Cynthia 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
Apr 26, 2013 Kathy 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
Jan 10, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 08, 2015 Britany rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gr
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
Mar 11, 2016 orsodimondo 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.

D’altra parte
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
May 31, 2013 Marialyce 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,
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
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 22, 2013 Diane S ☔ 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
Mar 15, 2015 Arwen56 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Istantanee di vita. Bello. Più che la storia in generale, mi sono piaciute le singole scene, i momenti imprevisti in cui i personaggi si trovano a dialogare con se stessi, oppure con un altro interlocutore, e che fioriscono a ripetizione nel narrato. E’ come se, da una pellicola che fa da sfondo e che scorre in modo continuo, un solo fotogramma venisse improvvisamente estratto e portato in primo piano, in modo che se ne distinguano chiaramente tutti i particolari. E i dettagli sono sempre molto ...more
Amanda OH MY GOD IT Burns
I started this book with excitement because it had the feel of a multidimensional character read to it. Let me rephrase that; an engrossing, multidimensional character read. The characters were complex and there weren’t too many of them to bog down the story. BUT it wasn’t too long before my opinion changed. I would say the main reason for that being that I discovered I didn’t like any of the characters.


Well actually I did like one, Abdikarim. He was kind, sincere and too bad for the reader
May 10, 2013 Jessica 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 -
Mar 29, 2013 Alena 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
Larry Bassett
Not looking for a happy ending?

I can't remember where in my reading career I began to dislike books with the implied happy ending. This book is like that: If there were an afterward it would be telling how everybody, in spite of the difficulties they experienced in the story, came to a happy resolution. Sometimes that kind of a conclusion leads to a little moisture in my eyes and I like it. But in The Burgess Boys the anticipation of happy conclusions annoyed me somewhat. There was a little too
Apr 03, 2013 Mom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge is a magnificent book, and I expected that Burgess Boys would be similar. Alas, not so much.

Haunted by a tragic accident that killed their father years earlier, we watch three siblings in their adult lives. The story is told from a distance, in a detached manner, and this rendered the characters less real than I'd expect from an author like Strout. As the story developed, the characters did become more real and understandable, but by then their unpleasantness
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
Danielle McClellan
Elizabeth Strout’s characters are often guarded, sometimes damaged, northern New Englanders, a fairly private group of individuals in real life; but here, under Strout's brush, they are closely rendered, exposed to the bright light with an even and unflinching hand.

I was thrilled to receive an early review copy of the Burgess Boys through GoodReads, as Olive Kitteridge and Amy and Isabelle were both favorites of mine. I think that this novel may be Strout’s best so far. The story of how the ten
Jun 22, 2013 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though the events and characters are quotidian, I found myself completely drawn to them. I was fascinated by the Burgess family dynamics and could totally relate to the idea of living with those childhood "truths" we were all led to believe about ourselves and our siblings. I found myself caring about the Burgesses and the people whose lives they influenced BECAUSE they are ordinary and flawed. No heroes here-- except a wise Somali gentleman with a generous and understanding heart. Quietly compe ...more
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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...

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“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.” 16 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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