Well after it took so long to get through Night Film via audio book this fall, I opted for a shorter selection next. Except I chose rather badly and it took me a really long time to get through this one too! I recognized a similar M.O. in this book choice as well. I didn’t enjoy or finish the first book I read by both authors and I struggled to finish the second book.
Book #14- The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout
Synopsis: Jim and Bob Burgess are brothers. They are both attorneys and live in New York. They grew up in a small town in Maine and their sister Susan, Bob’s twin, still lives there. Susan’s son, Zach, gets into a bit of trouble and is arrested for throwing a pig’s head through a Somali mosque. Bob and Jim must return to Maine to help sort out the whole mess. Like any family, their dynamics are a bit strained by their past; Bob carries the burden of having caused their father’s accidental death at the age of 4, Susan lives with the knowledge that she was never her mother’s favorite and Jim is something of a celebrity after defending a famous musician in a publicized trial. Jim is the golden boy, older brother who will fix everything and Bob is the second fiddle who can only hope to hold things together to help Susan. When they finally get Zach’s situation under control, Bob and Jim each have to work on getting themselves back in line.
My Impressions: I did not like this book. I kept listening, hoping that it was going somewhere, but I was disappointed start to finish. The book starts with someone recalling the Burgess Boys from childhood. I’m not sure who that was or why because that part of the narration didn’t go anywhere. Then there is the conflict with Zach and the steps required to deal with it drive the story, but it resolves fairly quietly. Then there is conflict between brothers, but it seems to always have existed and so there’s no real plot point to be made.
I really don’t know what this book was supposed to be about. There was a lot of book for not a lot of plot. Even as the book ended, I don’t know what it meant. I suppose it was about re-ordering a family, but I would have appreciated a little bit more direction to the story. For me, it was kind of like listening to someone tell a really long story only to have them forget why they were telling it to start.
Why you should read it: I can’t really recommend this book. Not for the story and not for the audio performance that I heard. As I said earlier, I didn’t like this author’s previous book Olive Kitteridge, and I’m aware that I’m in a small camp for that opinion. So if you liked that book, maybe this one is for you. But for me, lesson learned. I’m done here.
Book #14 in the bag.
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” ― Oscar Wilde