Book Reviews of Empire Falls

Empire Falls
Empire Falls
Author: Richard Russo
ISBN-13: 9780307275134
ISBN-10: 0307275132
Publication Date: 5/10/2005
Pages: 483
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 84

3.7 stars, based on 84 ratings
Publisher: Vintage
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

99 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Empire Falls on + 53 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Good book about crazy families and how to live with them without throwing yourself into traffic.
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Helpful Score: 6
Very well told story of a small town. Many well-developed characters.
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Helpful Score: 4
Excellent book! The story is easy to follow and very intense in parts.
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Helpful Score: 4
This book describes life in the small town of Empire Falls, Maine through the lives of its inhabitants as they struggle to survive - both economically and psychologically - in a town that has seen better days. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book of the year.
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Helpful Score: 3
Winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, 'Empire Falls' has a great plot and very real characters. Poignant, humorous and just a good read.
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Helpful Score: 3
Excellent character study. This was a great read.
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Helpful Score: 3
Exquisitely written. The characters are fully developed and quite real. I will miss them all very much and was sad to see the book end.
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Helpful Score: 3
This book will leave you breathless. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, with weak and human characters and a portrait of small town Maine that is tragic, stifling and beautiful. Miles Roby is a damned son of a drinker, blasphemer, shiftless charmer and a saint when he drops out of college to manage the Empire Grill. Twenty years and one ex-wife later, he is still the poor, dutiful loser-everyman. His dream is to return to idyllic Martha's Vineyard and run a coffee-bookshop with his high-school aged daughter, Tick. His dream nearly comes true, but what love affair draws him back to the Vineyard remains a mystery. I loved the pacing of the novel, as it meanders like a river through the lives of the characters. Unforgettable! This book's a keeper.
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Helpful Score: 2
I had seen the movie miniseries Empire Falls, before I read the book. Both were wonderful. This is a heartwarming story about people who seem so real that they become part of your life while you are reading the book. I couldn't put it down, even though I knew how the story ended. The book, of course, has nuances that aren't part of the movie, and goes into much more depth of characterization. By the time you have finished reading this book, you will likely feel as if you have lived-if only for a short time-in Empire Falls, with it's small town atmosphere.
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Helpful Score: 2
This is probably one of the best books I've read. Ever. The character development is amazing. It had me talking out loud. I dislike authors who use a bunch of flowery descriptive sentences of fluff just to add pages to the book. This author can say so much in the most profound way. I found myself with sticky notes all over the book. Just amazing.
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Helpful Score: 2
Great setting (new england) great characters (warm, endearing, yet a little quirky) believable plot. A good read.
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Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book. Literary. Great character development. It doesn't leave us with any pat answers, but examines the life of a nice, but messed up guy. I need to read it again.
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Helpful Score: 1
Great book! I wasn't in love with it at first, but as it kept going, I loved it more! It's the story of blue-collar America, lots of tragedy and people looking for a better way of life. Coming from New England I could relate! Definitely recommend it!
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Helpful Score: 1
Enjoyable from start to finish. Russo is great at creating believable characters that struggle to hold on to their dreams and aspirations in the face of the real world and their own personal foibles.
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Helpful Score: 1
Great book! Better than the HBO miniseries!
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Helpful Score: 1
an excellent book...I really came to love the protaganist (Miles Roby) and his daughter (Tick aka Christina) while really hating other characters (including Miles's soon-to-be ex-wife Janine)...the book is told in the present, but also includes flashbacks that help develop the stories and characters...if you've read Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes, the format is very similar...the novel includes mystery, love, deception, redemption, and personal growth...I highly recommend it.
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Helpful Score: 1
This is a great look into what it is like growing up in a mill town in Maine. I grew up to a town similar to this and it brought back alot of old memories good and bad.
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Helpful Score: 1
Intricate and believable account of life in small town New England where haves and have nots are inextricably intertwined. If you've seen or read Peyton Place, you will find notes of that tale in this well-crafted story. The author, incidentally, lives in Camden, ME where portions of Peyton Place was filmed.
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Helpful Score: 1
I stumbled upon this book and it intrigued me. It consumed me until I finished it. I hope all of Russo's other books are this good.
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Helpful Score: 1
It was a great book, well-written with a good story.
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Helpful Score: 1
great read better than movie
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Helpful Score: 1
Great story, with well developed characters. Small town setting, how personal choices affect the lives of it's characters.
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Helpful Score: 1
Better than the HBO made-for-TV movie.
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Helpful Score: 1
Excellent book with interesting characters - some humorous, some troubled, some eccentric. I recommend it!
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Helpful Score: 1
To me (and I think I am alone in this review) this boook was horribly painful, slow and boring. To me the characters were very flat and uninteresting, the book did not get interesting until about page 350, prior to that it was just horrible, I only continued reading because it was for a book chat or I would have abandoned it long before I got to the interesting 350th page!
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Helpful Score: 1
This is the first of Mr. Russo's books that I've read, and I really enjoyed it- lots of fascinating characters, great story line. A look at what life can be like if you never leave 'home'
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Helpful Score: 1
This has been hailed as a new classic but I don't see why. I thought it was just okay - nothing riveting or anything that I would be thinking about for a long time afterwards.
The father in this story annoyed me....the characters were just very very dull.
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Helpful Score: 1
Very good writing and a fun and touching list of characters. I laughed out loud many times, and enjoyed every page.
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Helpful Score: 1
Russo is wonderful storyteller and makes his characters wholly sympathetic, but also very human.
Great read!
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Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book! Russo introduces a small town of characters in a small dying town so touching and honest, I believed I could almost tell what each one would do next. The story explores a 360 viewpoint of people, community, family, religion and commerce. The most touching to me being the emotional reasons people stay in spite of "throwing away" lucrative, better suited careers; the relationships between the wealthy and poor and what role the church plays in our lives. Normally I'm not an enthusiastic reader of uplifting small town stories, but this book is an exception. I fell in love with the small town of Empire Falls, it's people, their struggles and even though I felt I knew the characters well enough to figure out their next move - I didn't.They surprised me when the story twisted and turned and served itself up like a yummy home made dessert from your favorite diner. I highly recommend this book!
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Helpful Score: 1
This is a wonderful book. The kind of book you hate to see come to an end.
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Helpful Score: 1
One of the best novels I've ever read!
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Helpful Score: 1
Absolutely positively brilliant, and NOT in some sort of annoyingly high-brow intellectual fashion! Just a beautifully written novel, at times amusing, sometimes downright funny, often heart-wrenching ... such an enjoyable read! Just read it for yourself, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Helpful Score: 1
If you are studying writing, then read this book-- the narrative voices of all the characters are so true, you feel as if you know these people in Empire Falls. Well done, deserved its Pulitzer Prize.
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Helpful Score: 1
Excellent book, although some parts were slow
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Helpful Score: 1
I loved this one. I developed a real connection to many of the characters. Hated for it to end.
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Helpful Score: 1
Full of interesting and complex characters, and needs to read by a warm fire on a long evening.
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Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years,
a job that cost him his college education and much of his self respect. What keeps him there? It could be his daughter Tick who needs all of his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it is Janine, Miles soon to be ex wife, who's taken up with a vain health club proprietor. Of perhaps it is Frances Whiting who owns
everything in town and seems to believe that includes Miles. This novel delves into the heart of America in a work that overflows with
hilarity, heartache and grace.
I liked this book alot.
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This is the book on which the HBO series was based. Complex characters paint life in a small town way in vivid colors. You will root for the good,strong characters to succeed and cheer for the controlling types to "get theirs."
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I think I am the only person who didn't like this book! The book started slow but picked up when the characters developed. I had a fondness for the story line about midway through. I won't give away the ending but it made me sick to my stomach and I can't help but think the author is demented?!?!
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I enjoyed this book. Great writing and interesting story line.
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Be sure to watch the movie version of this book. It was great to see the characters come to life.
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I enjoyed reading this book and didn't find it slow like other reviewers but I did find the tone very heavy. I spent the whole book waiting for something significant to happen. When the school scene happened at the end (don't want to spoil it), it just felt like it was over the top and not totally grounded in the book's reality. I found this book to have a lot of surprising insights and I wish I would have highlighted them in my unpostable copy. I did find the ending satisfactory.
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enjoyable read
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Richard Russo delivers again and again.
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Excellent read. Miles is a very sympathetic protagonist, and the supporting characters (Max, Tick, David, Charlene) are all charming in their own way. Feels a little long in parts, and sort of ends in a hurry... but I can definitely see how it won the Pulitzer. It's the type of book that will (if it hasn't already) be made into a movie with great actors. And if you've read the book and seen the movie, the book will inevitably be better.
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Very well written, but a little depressing.
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The book is way better than the movie. Well written
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what bookclubs are designed for with lots of personalities and dramas. wonderful book
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I wasn't sure if I'd like this book, it just didn't sound...exciting, but it's a Pulitzer winner, and the reviews were good. I'm not quite done with it, and have a feeling everything will come together in the end....it reminds me a lot of Mary McGarry Morris's "Songs in Ordinary Time" because of all the characters involved in the telling of the story, and how they are all related.
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My book club chose this book. It was well written, good read about a small town in Maine. I enjoyed the character development and the plot.
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How this book became a best seller I don't know. And the winner of the Pulitzer? Astounding! This has to be one of the most boring books I have read since the "Turn of the Screw" by Henry James in high school literature class. During the entire book the reader nearly becomes as bored as the characters in the town of Empire Falls, Maine. References made to things such as Tick's L.L. Bean backpack are fitting but overall the characters are dull and do not act on their feelings. The main chacter needs a good kick in the pants. He is a big chicken his entire life and even his wife leaves him for just this reason. Read this book if you like reading about people who do not act on their passions and live with regret.
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This was a most enjoyable book. I found as I read more, I couldn't wait to pick it up again to finish it. I especially liked the relevance to Maine areas, where I've been. I would definitely recommend this book.
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This was a really great book! One of the best novels I've read in a long time. I was hooked from the first page and wanted to keep reading. It's a story about a small town in Maine, and the relationships between the people who live there. All the characters are very well developed, and the story line is captivating. I couldn't wait to see how it all turned out. There is something for everyone in this novel: humor, suspense, romance...

There's definitely a reason why this book won the Pulitzer prize!

This was the first book I read by Richard Russo, and now I want more.
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This was a very enjoyable read. Most books make the characters so perfect in appearance but Russo made the characters believable and not one was perfect. It's a story that goes into the past and back to the present to bring the whole story together. I definitely want to read more of his books.
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I would not have pegged this for the Pulitzer but I really think it deserved it. Great book. Great, REAL, characters. I am putting this on the must read list for my husband.
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I hadn't read Russo's work previous to this novel, and I really did love this novel. The characters became very real to me so that I hated for the book to end.
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If you liked the movie, the book is even better
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I loved this book!
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Every book seems to have a start-up phase where it take some amount of pages before I can really get into it. I almost quit this book because at page 100 or so I was still not that interested in the story line and wondered where it was going. Well I am so thankful that I did not shelve the book at that point because it picked up and the rest of it really was a pleasure. So while I loved most of it, I rate it only three stars because it has a slow start. This author writes amazingly well; I appreciate how he writes this story (and others I've read- Straight Man is good too) using the various perspectives of the characters so you get not just one viewpoint but a compilation of them.
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Empire Falls is a sometimes comical, sometimes heart-wrenching tale of a small town in Maine. Through flashbacks, we see several generations of the Whiting family which owns and controls most of the property and the citizens of the town. Facing rural decay and economic hardship with the closing of their manufacturing, the people of Empire Falls are slowly falling apart like the buildings they work and live in.

Miles, the main character, struggles with his appearance to his family and neighbors and his true self, presenting a fascinating dicotomy. Where others see him strong, he is actually weak, and where others find him weak, he actually finds great strength as he puzzles together the events of twenty plus years which have shaped him more than he ever realized.

Though sluggish in parts, the plot twists and excellent character development make this a great book that will stay with you long after yuo have finished it.
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This book was as good if not better than the reviews.
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Fascinating characters. Wished I'd seen the HBO special to compare it to - but all in all a very interesting read.
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A GREAT read! If you haven't read this book you must. Russo brought the essence of small town America to life.
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I loved this book. Much better than the movie. The book makes the characters much more real. This is a fascinating slice of small town life. First rate!
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F.Y.I. The front corners are a little worn. This is a great book. Russo has a wonderful way of describing people. The lives of the people in this small town remind me of the interweave in "Great Expectations". I had a little trouble getting past the first couple chapters...character building and a bit boring, but it pays off later. By the way, the HBO movie didn't do the story justice.
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wonderful story about people living in a small town by the river in Maine! I like the character of Miles!
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the author captures the oppressive rhythms of small town life very well, however, the seemingly 'ripped from the headlines' topics such as gay priests and school violence distance the reader from the characters in a was that does a disservice to the narrative arc of the book in general, as well as the authors own enjoyable, readable style of writing.
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Took me a while to get through this book, but it is a worthwhile read. Good character studies.
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I never had a chance to watch the HBO miniseries based on the book and it's just as well, I enjoyed the characters much more without having an actor interpret them. Epic and enjoyable.
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great story, total character study, much better than the movie!
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A great read!
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Drama, comedy - small town life
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Not Russo's best (that would be "The Straight Man," but a good read with vivid characters.
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Loved this book. Made me long for a life in a small town, on a river, in New England. Great stuff.
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As usual, the book is better than the movie.
Leah G.
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fantastic read!
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Won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. That being said, I found the story to have some characters that lacked depth. However the story is engaging.
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Great read of small town life and all it's secrets.
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I have tried to readh this several times and just cannot. someone must like it because it has been made into a t.v. movie.
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I enjoyed the book although I didn't necessarily find it to be significantly better than other non-Pulitzer prize winning books I've read recently.
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Excellent book
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Amazon.com's Best of 2001
Like most of Richard Russo's earlier novels, Empire Falls is a tale of blue-collar life, which itself increasingly resembles a kind of high-wire act performed without the benefit of any middle-class safety nets. This time, though, the author has widened his scope, producing a comic and compelling ensemble piece. There is, to be sure, a protagonist: fortysomething Miles Roby, proprietor of the local greasy spoon and the recently divorced father of a teenage daughter. But Russo sets in motion a large cast of secondary characters, drawn from every social stratum of his depressed New England mill town. We meet his ex-wife Janine, his father Max (another of Russo's cantankerous layabouts), and a host of Empire Grill regulars. We're also introduced to Francine Whiting, a manipulative widow who owns half the town--and who takes a perverse pleasure in pointing out Miles's psychological defects.

Miles does indeed have a tendency to take it on the chin. (At one point he alludes to his own "natural propensity for shit-eating.") And his role as Mr. Nice Guy thrusts him into all sorts of clashes with his not-so-nice contemporaries, even as the reader patiently waits for him to blow his top. It would be impossible to summarize Russo's multiple plot lines here. Suffice it to say that he touches on love and marriage, lust and loss and small-town economics, with more than a soupçon of class resentment stirred into the broth. This is, in a sense, an epic of small and large frustrations: "After all, what was the whole wide world but a place for people to yearn for their heart's impossible desires, for those desires to become entrenched in defiance of logic, plausibility, and even the passage of time, as eternal as polished marble." Yet Russo's comedic timing keeps the novel from collapsing into an orgy of breast-beating, and his dialogue alone--snappy and natural and efficiently poignant--is sufficient cause to put Empire Falls on the map. --Bob Brandeis
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Words that describe the book: Small town life

3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:

1. Setting: Empire Falls, Maine, not too long ago but not present day
2. Miles RobyThe quintessential "nice guy," Miles has been working at the Empire Grill for more than 20 yearsa fact that would have killed his mother Grace if she hadn't died of cancer years before. Divorced and still pining for his long ago crush, Miles's life centers around his daughter Tick, whose passage through high school is anything but easy.
3. Francine WhitingThe richest woman in town, Francine Whiting seemingly controls every aspect of town life. Yet her interest in Miles seems to go beyond casualcausing Miles to look to his past to find out what binds the Roby and Whiting families together.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

1. I liked how Russo takes his time developing the characters. Although the story is told primarily through Miles's eyes, we also get to know his ex-wife Janine, Tick, his brother David, his father Max, his neighbor and nemesis Jimmy Minty and a host of other residents who populate the town. My personal favorite was Miles's father Max, who was so laughably awful and foul and direct that you just gotta love him.
2. I liked how Russo lets the story develop slowly before letting it rip loose. At points, I wasn't sure if anything was going to happen or if the book was simply a portrait of small town America. In many ways, the book was like a roller coaster. There is a slow steady upward climb until you reach the top of the hill and come flying down the other side, dizzy from the speed and twists and turns.
3. I liked how Russo weaves several plot lines together to create a rich tapestry of stories. We explore Miles's childhood and his mother's secrets, Tick's difficulties at school and her attempt to reach out to a troubled boy, and the tragic story of Francine Whiting's daughter Cindy. Interwoven with these primary story lines are countless little moments that bring into focus the other residents of the town.
4. I liked the depth and breadth of the book. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, and I think it is worthy of the honor. In many ways, it is an "epic" novel that keeps it focus tightly on one little town while demonstrating that every small town and every regular person has a story worth telling.

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 4.5 stars. Give yourself time to read this book; it isn't a book to be rushed through. Be patient as you get to know the residents of Empire Falls and learn their stories. You'll find the the characters will stay with you long after reading. And unlike many "important" prize-winning books, Empire Falls is very readable, accessible and understandable. It is filled with sadness, humor, love, passion, hate, selfishness and all the other emotions that make up all of our lives. The fact that I can recall almost all of the characters names and the plot lines without looking them up even though I read the book at the beginning of January should tell you something!
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This book made me a huge fan of Russo's. Still slowly-slowly savoring. You learn to love his characters whether they are nice people or not.
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Whether concerning the main character, who is the manager of the small town grill, his teenage daughter or the wealthy, controlling widow, every emotion expressed in this book feels so real. These are feelings you've felt and people you know. You just never knew them as well as you will when you finish this book. I couldn't put it down.
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From cover:
Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe its Janine, Miles soon-to-be ex-wife, whos taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps its the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in townand seems to believe that everything includes Miles himself. In Empire Falls Richard Russo delves deep into the blue-collar heart of America in a work that overflows with hilarity, heartache, and grace.
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Another fabulous book by Richard Russo! The author is from my hometown...a small town in upstate NY with characters EXACTLY as he writes them! Could NOT put it down!
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Great book, memorable characters
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trade paperback--good story
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AWESOME book. I saw the movie first and then read the book, and found that the movie had been a PERFECT adaptation, and the casting was wonderful. HIGHLY recommend.
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Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it's Janine, Miles's soon-to-be ex-wife, who's taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it's the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town--and seems to believe that "everything" includes Miles himself. Delves deep into the blue-collar heart of America in a work that overflows with hilarity, heartache, and grace. The book on which the HBO film was based.
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Who thought a man could do the work of a woman, emotionally and physically.
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Great read.
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Richard Russo's most ambitious novel is also his most gracefully told. Sweeping in its social scope but also achingly personal and beautifully detailed, Empire Falls is a subtle drama about the plight of the working class in a decaying Northeast mill town.

After Gary Fisketjon edited and published Russo's powerful first novel, Mohawk, in 1986, he eagerly awaited the day he would have the opportunity to work with Russo again. He got his wish 15 years later, and Fisketjon, vice president and editor-at-large of Knopf, had this to say about it: "Empire Falls reveals our worst and best instincts and transfigures both our most appalling nightmares and our simplest hopes, with all the vision, grace, and humanity of epic storytelling."
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Miles Roby slings hamburgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years. What is keeping him there? Could be his bright daughter, soon-to-be ex-wife or Francine who owns everything in town. Francine believes she owns Miles as well.
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Description on back: Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter, Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe its's Janie, Mile's soon to be ex wife, who's taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it's the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town and seems to believe that everything includes Miles himself.
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Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter, Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it's Janine, Mile's soon-to-be ex-wife, who's taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it's the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town, and seems to believe that "everything" includes Miles himself. In Empire Falls, Richard Russo delves deep into the blue-collar heart of America in a work that overflows with hilarity, heartache and grace.

-from the back cover
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I never had the chance to read this book. Maybe you will?