Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

The BURGESS BOYS is a journey into the lives of Jim, Bob, and Susan Burgess. They were brothers and sister whose relationship with each other fell apart after their mother died.   

THE BURGESS BOYS centered on family, feelings, secrets, lies, and on Zachary's being disrespectful of Somali immigrants which caused problems for the Burgess family who already had many problems of their own.  You will feel the tension among the three siblings as they try to solve this dilemma, and you will also see how it brings them closer.

Jim and Bob had become courtroom attorneys with Jim being the more successful one. Bob left the courtroom and went to the appeals court, and Susan is the one who stayed in their hometown and is now burdened with what her son did.  She definitely needed her attorney brothers for this situation. She preferred Jim but Bob had to help her with Zachary's problem. 

When Bob arrived at his twin sister's house, he didn't like what he found in terms of how Susan lived.  He was sure this didn't help with how quiet and withdrawn Zachary seemed.  Jim finally did intervene with the courts, and thought he had helped, but he wasn't too happy about helping his sister get her son out of this mess. As usual, Bob was in the middle of it all or completely left out.  

The interaction of the main characters was very well done.  Bob and Jim definitely were portrayed as rivaling siblings with Jim being the cruel one as he threw barbs and cruel comments at Bob.  This wasn't  anything different from their childhood, though. Their sister remained the sister in the background.

I enjoyed the great descriptions and well-developed characters Ms. Strout employed, but I wasn't a great fan of the storyline.  I really was looking forward to this read and am a bit disappointed.  THE BURGESS BOYS seemed to be a bit slow even though it was interesting to learn about the legal system and the life of the Somali people.

The ending focused on the Burgess children as adults thinking about their lives and alluded to the fact that your childhood shapes you as an adult in terms of how you feel about yourself and your life choices.   I do have to say THE BURGESS BOYS did touch on some good subjects.
I can't say it was my favorite read, but it wasn't my least favorite.  The major problem for me was the type of book it was.  I like more of a saga.  To me it seemed more like stating facts or a narrative.

The book did get better in the last 100 pages, but to me it still was not that interesting and was a little disorganized.  3/5

This book was given to me from a win on LibraryThing and the publisher without compensation in return for an honest review.


  1. I had high hopes for this book but yours is the second review I've read that says the book was just okay.

  2. Me too, Kathy. I was disappointed.

  3. I read another book by Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge)- it came highly recommended from a friend, but I didn't really enjoy it, so this author maybe isn't for me...your review is very helpful, and doesn't make me think I'll be chasing after this one!

  4. I loved Olive Kitteridge so I am disappointed about the reviews I have been seeing about this one. Thanks for posting.

  5. The storyline doesn't appeal to me either. I think I'll skip this one.