Monday, February 18, 2013

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

Strout is a great writer and an interesting storyteller. I loved Olive Kitteridge for its slow accumulation of details that ultimately made for an touching, intimate portrait of the title character. But there's something missing in The Burgess Boys. A great novel, even just a very good novel, is somehow more than the sum of its parts. This isn't one of those books.
It follows the Burgess siblings (two boys and a girl, so, why, Book Club, why, is it called The Burgess Boys?) as they work through a scandal involving the sister's son, a pig's head, and the Somali community in the tiny Maine town where the Burgess' grew up. The brothers are New York lawyers, one a bumbler and the other a star. That almost sounds like a comedy, but it's not.
This would make a great book club selection both because it's full of issues (I almost wrote "issues") and because it somehow fails. I won't reveal too much here, but one of the characters has a very, very unrealistic ending to his/her story. Of course, that's the kind of statement that's perfect for book club.

p.s. This books comes out in the end of March.