Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review: Empire Falls by Richard Russo



Title: Empire Falls
Author:  Richard Russo
Publisher: Vintage (April 12, 2002)
ISBN 10: 0375726403 
Pages: 496 pages
Format: Audio Book

About the Book: (from 

Richard Russo—from his first novel, Mohawk—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, only a succession from bad to worse. One by one, its logging and textile enterprises have gone belly-up, and the once vast holdings of the Whiting clan (presided over by the last scion’s widow) now mostly amount to decrepit real estate. The working classes, meanwhile, continue to eke out whatever meager promise isn’t already boarded up.

Miles Roby gazes over this ruined kingdom from the Empire Grill, an opportunity of his youth that has become the albatross of his daily and future life. Called back from college and set to work by family obligations—his mother ailing, his father a loose cannon—Miles never left home again. Even so, his own obligations are manifold: a pending divorce; a troubled younger brother; and, not least, a peculiar partnership in the failing grill with none other than Mrs. Whiting. All of these, though, are offset by his daughter, Tick, whom he guides gently and proudly through the tribulations of adolescence.

A decent man encircled by history and dreams, by echoing churches and abandoned mills, by the comforts and feuds provided by lifelong friends and neighbors, Miles is also a patient, knowing guide to the rich, hardscrabble nature of Empire Falls: fathers and sons and daughters, living and dead, rich and poor alike. Shot through with the mysteries of generations and the shattering visitations of the nation at large, it is a social novel of panoramic ambition, yet at the same time achingly personal. In the end, Empire Falls reveals our worst and best instincts, both our most appalling nightmares and our simplest hopes, with all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling.

Setting:  Empire Falls, Maine  (small town)

About the Author:  Richard Russo lives in coastal Maine with his wife and their two daughters. He was awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Empire Falls. His novels Empire Falls, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool and Straight Man as well as his short story collection, The Whore's Child, are available in Vintage paperback.

Related Media:  (trailer for the movie adaptation of the book)

My Review:   Books like Empire Falls make me question my ability to review books. Empire Falls won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2002. While I loved many things about Empire Falls, I also found some things I did not care for. Russo is a wonderful story teller and made me feel like I was right there in Empire Falls. The characters were strong and well developed, though I would have liked to have more insight into the inner workings of Tick and Mrs. Whiting. Tick and Mrs. Whiting were my favorite characters. I understand that not providing that insight about their thoughts assists in making them more mysterious characters, but I personally wanted to know more about their thoughts.

Honestly, I nearly gave up on this book as the beginning as it seemed to plod along. But that was simply good storytelling. Empire Fall does eventually come to a boil, after much anticipation. It did feel like I was watching in anticipation for a pot to boil. For me personally, everything came to the climax and too quickly the loose ends were all tied up and the story was over. The ending was just too quick for me. The ending was a surprise to me in some regards. I thought I had it all figured out midway through the book, exasperated with such an obvious plot twist, but I was WRONG.

The last comment I have to make about Empire Falls, which is possibly related to the fact that I listened to the audio of this book, is that I found the flash backs in Empire Falls to be clumsy and confusing. I assume that in the written text the flashbacks may have been denoted in a better fashion, but in the audio it was clumsy and confusing.

My Rating: 4/5 – really liked Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I grew to really care about the characters in Empire Falls and found myself wanting to do tasks that would allow me to listen to the audio book a bit longer. If you have read my blog for any period of time, you will find I rarely rate anything 5. A book has to really keep me up at night to be rated 5- it was amazing! A rating of a 4 is certainly a book I would recommend to other readers.

Other Bloggers Reviews:

Literary Corner Café

Book Awards Reading Challenge

Life with Books

Savidge Read – Book Addict


Happy Reading!

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

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