Book Review 42: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

23 Oct

This, like basically every book I read this bar summer, should have been right up my alley. It’s a family drama, centered primarily on brothers Jim and Bob Burgess, both lawyers who leave their small town in Maine to work in NYC. Like all classic brother relationships, their’s is defined by competition, envy, and seemingly opposite world views. And yet it wasn’t my favorite.

Bob’s life has been marked by his constant competition with older, flashier brother Jim. And by a distant tragedy in their family’s past. Bob is always one step behind giving people what they want – his siblings, his ex-wife, his potential love interest, his nephew. He’s “almost” there in so many cases, and he strongly feels how he’s not good enough.

Bob and Jim’s nephew is accused of a hate crime, which ultimately unravels the family. I hate to describe it as an unraveling because it was almost therapeutic.  They break through their New England stony upbringing to really hash out how they feel, what they hate, who they love, and what’s important.

Strout is an excellent writer but the book felt anticlimactic for me.  There were a number small stories that resolved themselves repeatedly, as opposed to one, long continuous arc. This makes sense-  she’s well known for her short story collection Olive Kitteridge. This book is fine, but wasn’t my favorite.


One Response to “Book Review 42: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout”


  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Reviews 38 – 53 | Cannonball Read V - December 26, 2013

    […] Review 42: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Stout […]

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