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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Intense in places, the novel focuses on life in Empire Falls, Maine, where the reader encounters the lives of residents struggling to survive in a community that has lost two major factories. Jobs are scarce and people are moving away. Yes, Empire Falls has seen better days.
The author has drawn characters of great depth, both human and weak. He describes how they cope with day to day living amid others with others whose selfishness, shallowness, and power seeking qualities making life challenging. Anyone who has lived in such circumstances will recall such days. Two of the most interesting characters are Miles Roby, a man who left college just short of graduation, and his alcoholic father who is shiftless, charming, lovable at times and quick to take advantage of anyone. Miles was enticed to work in the Empire Grill, progressing to manager where he has worked for 20 years. In the midst of divorce from his shallow wife, Janine, he seeks to maintain contact and communication with his teenage daughter, Tick.
As the book progresses the plot entangles more individuals in unexpected ways. It is humorous, sad at times, and reflective of the emotions and actions of the people of Empire Falls. .This is a story about blue-collar America and how a wealthy individual, Francine Whiting, controls those who live in the community and what happens to them. Kudos to the author whose writing brings readers into the lives of those who chose to stay or return to the place they were born.
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!
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.
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?!?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
I actually have mixed feelings about this book. It most certainly kept my interest but there were times when his writing style frustrated me. All of the characters were flawed and some just evil, so perhaps, that was my difficulty in reading about them. The ending is quite explosive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.