2014: 40. The Burgess Boys

"My mother and I talked a lot about the Burgess family."

The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout

This week, the Misha-Preheim memorial chair in book recommending is filled by my friend, Dr. Liz Feldman (who is also the woman who basically saved my life by helping me figure out how to get to through my cancer diagnosis, and thus is a saint on Earth).  And I loved it.  I'd never read Olive Kitteridge, Strout's Pulitzer Prize winner, but I certainly will now, because this book was great. 

It starts out sad, and as such, it took me a while to get hooked - I was afraid it would a terribly depressing book.  But, in fact, it is just the opposite - a life affirming book of how we survive our pasts and can find happiness.

 We have the story of the Burgess family, three children who grew up in small town Maine, and, when they were young, their father was killed in a freak accident.  The two brothers leave Maine as fast as they can.  Both are lawyers - but Jim is a superstar, while Bob is a schlub.  Their sister Susan stayed behind and is somewhat estranged from them.  But they are all going along as best as possible, until the boys get a call from their sister that her son has gotten into trouble and needs their help.  And so, the book is about family, and leaving home - and about trauma and how you deal with it - and what happens when you don't deal with it.  And Strout does a lovely job with the theme without bashing you over the head - it's more that when you are done reading you can see what's she done.

But most of all, I loved the characters, especially old Bob, who is so sweet and deserves so much better.  And Strout is so generous to all her characters.  All of them - even the "bad" ones - the antagonists, are real people whose motives are understandable.  I just really believed in the world she created, and cared about what happened to the people in it.  Highly I recommended, and I'm off to find Olive Kitteridge. 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017