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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, March 2013 - Jim and Bob Burgess escaped their Maine hometown just as soon as they could…but now their nephew’s ‘antics’ have brought them back home where they’re forced to relive the accident that killed their father and deal with the (not-so-pretty) realities of their relationships. Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her last book, Olive Kitteridge, which I loved, so my expectations were high for this new novel. Similar to Olive, the protagonists here aren’t necessarily likeable, but the character studies are so insightful, so raw and real, you can’t help but be drawn in – especially with Cassandra Campbell at the helm. —Diana D., Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan - the Burgess sibling who stayed behind - urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.

With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with listeners long after the ausiobook is over. Tender, tough-minded, loving, and deeply illuminating about the ties that bind us to family and home, The Burgess Boys is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art.

©2013 Elizabeth Strout (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Deeply human... Though loneliness and loss haunt these pages, Strout also supplies gentle humor and a nourishing dose of hope.” (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Truly awful reading of a decent story

This is the most important thing I have to say about this book. Having loved Olive Kitteridge, I had anticipated also enjoying The Burgess Boys. Alas, the reader's "Maine accent" was painful to listen to, which is ironic as, early on in the book, mention is made of how difficult it is to fake a Maine accent. This is one book I would have doubtless enjoyed more in print.

The characters were mostly unlikeable from beginning to end, which made it difficult to become interested in their fates. Also, I find the exploitation of current events tiresome but that may not be the case for all readers as evidenced by the popularity of authors such as Jodi Picoult.

My advice is to always listen to the Audible sample before buying an audiobook, although, in this case, the offending "accent" wasn't evident from the sample.

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Acceptance at best

I liked the characters most of the time and there was room for change. There was movement towards accepting the hand that was dealt and coming to terms with long held secrets and lies. Did I love listening to it? No, not really. I thought the characters were dreadfully slow in seeing what was real and the emphasis on a new culture diluting the character of the a staid little town just felt overblown to me.

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  • Barb
  • Pullman, WA, United States
  • 07-19-13

Elizabeth Strout doesn't disappoint

I'll admit--I found the beginning of "The Burgess Boys" a little slow, but I stuck with it because I haven't read anything from Elizabeth Strout that I didn't like. I'm glad I kept going. The story was interesting, especially in these times, and the characters were all people that you hoped would grow and see what their issues were.

Artfully written story about two brothers and a sister from Maine. The brothers left Maine for New York City after college, while the sister stays behind. When her son has some problems with the law and the civil rights community, the brothers step in to help, each in their own way with their own particular gifts. The wives of the brothers provide interesting contrast with the siblings, as well.

Well-told and with characters you care about. Another terrific book from Strout.

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Ugh, made myself keep going but had to stop

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone who likes fake accents and over-articulation.

What could Elizabeth Strout have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I think the book might have been okay, I really couldn't focus on it. I originally had this as a physical book and then decided to listen to it. I should have stuck with *reading* it. Having said that, the story wasn't captivating enough for me to keep with it despite the performance, so I suppose that says something about the book itself.

How could the performance have been better?

A different narrator.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Annoyance.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A story that you can relate to and care about

If you could sum up The Burgess Boys in three words, what would they be?

Raw, simple truth

What did you like best about this story?

The in-depth look into each character, showing both good and bad in a nonjudgemental way. The description of the town. The way the story unfolds, it takes it's time, but wastes no words.

What about Cassandra Campbell’s performance did you like?

Yes a wonderful reader. I loved the Maine accent and the way she emphasized certain words and phrases.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

At certain times the harshness of the dialogue between the siblings was moving, but in a shocking way. The in-comprehensiveness that Bob had when given the news from Jim.

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Lives up to critics' reviews and my expectations

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I recommended it to my book club. The characters could be people I know. The novel deals with contemporary problems and attitudes--unemployed and impressionable youth, immigration, unresolved family issues, arrogant and arriviste urban dwellers.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Burgess Boys?

The surprising resolution of the court case. Also Jim's fall from grace due to hubris.

What does Cassandra Campbell bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She portrayed the Maine accent very well, and that of the immigrants. She made Jim's wife, Helen, even more aggravating.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I sympathized with the plight of the Somali immigrants, the loneliness experienced when there is disruption in supportive "family" connections.

Any additional comments?

I was angered by Jim's disdain for his brother and sister. Of course the boys were the focus of the novel, but I wish the character of the sister had been developed more fully.

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Depressing but still somehow riveting.

Where does The Burgess Boys rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It was average. I listen to alot of audio books, and while I felt the story, the details, and the focus were all very interesting, the overall tone of the entire narration and story was so bleak and desolate that at each new depressing turn, I was like, well of course it just has to keep getting worse. There was very little relief from what I consider to be a story about life's expectations gone wrong. The ending was actually pretty uplifting but only relatively.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I liked the narrator, mostly, but at times she her pace was relatively slow. I wondered if it was her tone, or the tone of the story that was more depressing.

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  • Story

Good story, terrible narration

What didn’t you like about Cassandra Campbell’s performance?

She over-emotes every line. She should remember that she's narrating a story, not "acting it out." Very annoying.at times.

Was The Burgess Boys worth the listening time?

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  • Kathleen
  • Cincinnati, OH, United States
  • 04-24-13

Huge Disappointment

I have greatly enjoyed Elizabeth Strout's other books, including "Olive Kitteredge" and "Amy & Isabelle." "The Burgess Boys" is almost shockingly disappointing. The story is dreary, the characters utterly unlikable, and the narrator sounds clinically depressed (I guess I would be, too, if I had to read this drivel). I couldn't even finish the first half.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Depressing, miserable characters.

I really tried to like this book. It is well written and the narrator was fine, so I had trouble assigning star ratings. But, if I had met these characters in life I would try to avoid them, so I certainly didn't want to spend any time reading about them. I had great hopes for liking Bob, but he couldn't save this depressing, miserable story. I will be exchanging this one.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful