Friday, March 29, 2013

The Burgess Boys

Title:  The Burgess Boys
Author:  Elizabeth Strout
Publication Information:  Random House Publishing Group, Random House Inc. 2013. 320 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. I had requested the book because I enjoyed Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The book arrived as a paperback Advance Reader's Edition.

Favorite Quote:  "Living in a world where constantly one turned and touched incomprehension - they did not comprehend, he did not comprehend - gave the air the lift of uncertainty and this seemed to wear away something in him, always he felt unsure of what he wanted, what he thought, even what he felt."

The Burgess Boys are Jim and Bob - both scarred by the accidental death of their father when they were young. They choose very different paths in life but remain connected as only siblings can. A call from their sister Susan brings them back to their hometown in an attempt to help their nephew Zach, who is in trouble with the law.

Zach makes a bad decision and does something that can be viewed as a boy's stupidity or as a hate crime depending on perspective. He is prosecuted for the crime. Both Jim and Bob are attorneys although both have chosen very different careers.  Susan, who is Bob's twin, calls on her two brothers to help. Through the context of this event, the book tells the story of these three siblings.

This book tries to take on too much and too many big issues - the scars of childhood, the complicated relationships between siblings, marriage and divorce, tensions in a small community, race and ethnic issues, political issues, and more. Unfortunately, in doing all of that, it does justice to none of them.

The book starts off with great potential. Unfortunately, after a while, it feels like it is jumping from thread to thread to thread. No one aspect of the story line develops fully, and as a reader, leaves me unsatisfied.

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