2 Words that describe the book: Small town life
3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:
- Setting: Empire Falls, Maine, not too long ago but not present day
- Miles Roby—The quintessential “nice guy,” Miles has been working at the Empire Grill for more than 20 years—a 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.
- Francine Whiting—The richest woman in town, Francine Whiting seemingly controls every aspect of town life. Yet her interest in Miles seems to go beyond casual—causing Miles to look to his past to find out what binds the Roby and Whiting families together.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I’m giving the book 4 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!
This book counts towards my What’s In A Name Challenge, the Awesome Authors Challenge, the 100+ Books Challenge, the Reading from My Shelves Challenge, and possibly the Take Another Chance Challenge. Whew!
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And it seems that our Show Me 5 Saturday hostess is missing in action since November so I thought I’d include a Mr. Linky with my post in case you want to hook up your own contribution. Hopefully, she’ll be back to blogging soon.