"Empire Falls" by Richard Russo

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by Mustang, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. Mustang

    Mustang Gold Member

    Jan 15, 2010
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    This is a story of a small Maine town, Empire Falls, which has fallen on hard times. The main character, Miles Roby, is the 42 yo manager of a restaurant called the Empire Grill. He's a nice guy everyman, well-liked by everyone, but taken advantage of frequently by family, friends, and coworkers who've come to know that Miles goes easy on people just as he goes easy on himself. Surrounding him are an assortment of odd characters, including his soon to be sex-obsessed ex-wife, Janine, and his ne'er-do-well father, Max.

    A powerful family named the Whitings previously ran the now closed textile mill and shirt factory for 3 generations and still owns a lot of property in town, including the Empire Grill which Miles runs. The Whiting "empire" is now solely controlled by Mrs Whiting, who's known Max since he was a boy. We learn a great deal about the Whiting family's and Miles' early history in the prologue, flashbacks, and the epilogue, all of which are written in italics. Miles' mother, Grace, who is featured prominently in the book passed away about 20 years before current events unfold.

    This story is probably best described as tragicomic because there are some incredibly amusing and downright funny events and interactions between the believable characters which take place as a background to a number of serious story lines, both historical, spanning decades, and also unfolding mostly in the present.

    There's a fair amount of introspection in most of the main character's personal stories which ultimately made the book far superior to other books which tend to concentrate solely on the unfolding story. However, the individual character's introspection, for the most part, didn't distract or detract from the story because it never came across as unduly melodramatic. The book also had a few surprises that kept the stories from being predictable without seeming as if the surprises were unnecessarily contrived.

    It's written in an easy style, and was a very worthwhile read.

    It won a Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2002. 483 pages.

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