The Burgess Boys

I decided I wanted to read read Elizabeth Strout’s newest book The Burgess Boys after reading her Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge. I think this book is better. Siblings Jim, Bob & Susan Burgess reunite when Susan’s son Zach ends up in trouble with the law. Susan is the only family member who never left the community of Shirley Falls, Maine, brothers Jim and Bob having long since moved away. They are both lawyers currently living in New York City, but as different as day is to night. Jim is a high profile corporate lawyer often in the national spotlight, Bob is a legal aid lawyer who chooses to remain out of the limelight. With a freak family accident long since buried in their psychies, all 3 try to deal with Zach’s stupid actions one evening that cause national news headlines, and outrage among old time Shirley Falls residents and the newly arrived community of Somali immigrants.  This is a really timely story. It deals with the delicate issue of immigrants fitting into the American way of life – or not, and how hatred and bigotry can be overcome with compasion and forgiveness in the most unlikely circumstances. Strout has portrayed a slice of life in small town American as it most probably is right now. The old having to cope with the new, where ideas and ways of life conflict and create tension. Strout is a great writer, and she deserves high praise for this book. It’s a real winner.

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