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Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys

Elizabeth Strout The Burgess Boys
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Biographical note:

Elizabeth Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

1

On a breezy October afternoon in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Helen Farber Burgess was packing for vacation. A big blue suitcase lay open on the bed, and clothes her husband had chosen the night before were folded and stacked on the lounge chair nearby. Sunlight kept springing into the room from the shifting clouds outside, making the brass knobs on the bed shine brightly and the suitcase become very blue. Helen was walking back and forth between the dressing room—­with its enormous mirrors and white horsehair wallpaper, the dark woodwork around the long window—­walking between that and the bedroom, which had French doors that were closed right now, but in warmer weather opened onto a deck that looked out over the garden. Helen was experiencing a kind of mental paralysis that occurred when she packed for a trip, so the abrupt ringing of the telephone brought relief. When she saw the word private, she knew it was either the wife of one of her husband’s law partners—­they were a prestigious firm of famous lawyers—­or else her brother-­in-­law, Bob, who’d had an unlisted number for years but was not, and never would be, famous at all.

“I’m glad it’s you,” she said, pulling a colorful scarf from the bureau drawer, holding it up, dropping it on the bed.

“You are?” Bob’s voice sounded surprised.

“I was afraid it would be Dorothy.” Walking to the window, Helen peered out at the garden. The plum tree was bending in the wind, and yellow leaves from the bittersweet swirled across the ground.

“Why didn’t you want it to be Dorothy?”

“She tires me right now,” said Helen.

“You’re about to go away with them for a week.”

“Ten days. I know.”

A short pause, and then Bob said, “Yeah,” his voice dropping into an understanding so quick and entire—­it was his strong point, Helen thought, his odd ability to fall feetfirst into the little pocket of someone else’s world for those few seconds. It should have made him a good husband but apparently it hadn’t: Bob’s wife had left him years ago.

“We’ve gone away with them before,” Helen reminded him. “It’ll be fine. Alan’s an awfully nice fellow. Dull.”

“And managing partner of the firm,” Bob said.

“That too.” Helen sang the words playfully. “A little difficult to say, ‘Oh, we’d rather go alone on this trip.’ Jim says their older girl is really messing up right now—­she’s in high school—­and the family therapist suggested that Dorothy and Alan get away. I don’t know why you ‘get away’ if your kid’s messing up, but there we are.”

“I don’t know either,” Bob said sincerely. Then: “Helen, this thing just happened.”

She listened, folding a pair of linen slacks. “Come on over,” she interrupted. “We’ll go across the street for dinner when Jim gets home.”

After that she was able to pack with authority. The colorful scarf was included with three white linen blouses and black ballet flats and the coral necklace Jim had b“Strout’s prose propels the story forward with moments of startlingly poetic clarity.”The New Yorker
 
“Elizabeth Strout’s first two books, Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle, were highly thought of, and her third, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. But The Burgess Boys, her most recent novel, is her best yet.”The Boston Globe
 
“Strout’s greatest gift as a writer, outside a diamond-sharp precision that packs 320 fast-paced pages full of insight, is her ability to let the reader in on all the rancor of her characters without making any of them truly detestable. . . . Strout creates a portrait of an American community in turmoil that’s as ambitious as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral but more intimate in tone.”Time
 
“[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again. . . . At times [The Burgess Boys is] almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and . . . startling riffs of gripping emotion.”—Associated Press
 
“[Strout] is at her masterful best when conjuring the two Burgess boys. . . . Scenes between them ring so true.”San Francisco Chronicle
 
“No one should be surprised by the poignancy and emotional vigor of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel. But the broad social and political range of The Burgess Boys shows just how impressively this extraordinary writer continues to develop.”The Washington Post
 
“What truly makes Strout exceptional—and her latest supple and penetrating novel so profoundly affecting—is the perfect balance she achieves between the tides of story and depths of feeling. . . . Every element in Strout’s graceful, many-faceted novel is keenly observed, lustrously imagined and trenchantly interpreted.”Chicago Tribune
 
“Strout deftly exposes the tensions that fester among families. But she also takes a broader view, probing cultural divides. . . . Illustrating the power of roots, Strout assures us we can go home again—though we may not want to.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“Reading an Elizabeth Strout novel is like peering into your neighbor’s windows. . . . There is a nuanced tension in the novel, evoked by beautiful and detailed writing. Strout’s manifestations of envy, pride, guilt, selflessness, bigotry and love are subtle and spot-on.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Strout conveys what it feels like to be an outsider very well, whether she’s delving into the quiet inner lives of Somalis in Shirley Falls or showing how the Burgess kids got so alienated from one another. But the details are so keenly observed, you can connect with the characters despite their apparent isolation. . . . [A] gracefully written novel. [Grade:] A.”Entertainment Weekly
 
“Wincingly funny, moving, wise.”Good Housekeeping
 
“With her signature lack of sentimentality, a boatload of clear-eyed compassion and a penetrating prose style that makes the novel riveting, Strout tells the story of one Maine family, transformed. Again and again, she identifies precisely the most complex of filial emotions while illuminating our relationships to the larger families we all belong to: a region, a city, America and the world.”More
 
The Burgess Boys returns to coastal Maine [with] a grand unifying plot, all twists and damage and dark, morally complex revelations. . . . Th


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