Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A bit of doubt, for Strout

Olive Kitteredge was a delightful read, so I decided to dive into the newly released novel by Elizabeth Strout, The Burgess Boys, which tells the story of brothers Bob and Jim and Bob's twin Susan.  Born and raised in small-town Shirley Falls, Maine, Bob and Jim move to New York City and pursue careers in law, while Susan stays in Maine, eventually raising her teenage son on her own.  What sets the story in motion is that her lonely son Zach puts a frozen pig's head in a mosque in the local town, where a recent influx of Somalis have come to live.  Jim, the "golden boy" of the family, and Bob (who idolizes Jim) attempt to help their sister and nephew, and in returning to Maine and becoming involved in the family drama, they also revisit conversation that was put to rest long ago regarding their childhoods, specifically around the accidental death of their father.  The novel explores issues of guilt, loyalty, and the imperfections of family life.
This was an easy read, however I did not find any of the characters particularly likeable, compelling, or unique.  While there are a few plot twists, none of them were so climactic or riveting.  For me, the character development was not as strong as it was in Olive Kitteredge

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