The Burgess Boys: A Novel

Editorial reviews

The Burgess Boys: A Novel

Unfortunately, The Burgess Boys fails to impress with its story of family disharmony and personal growth.

Strout’s sure-footed, breathtaking writing trumpets the need for personal responsibility.

Boys manages to make small happenings big without blowing them out of proportion, a noble feat too few books even attempt.

Strout is too gifted a writer to settle for a pat ending, and so some questions remain for the Burgess clan. What is never in doubt is how impeccably Strout brings these flawed people to life.

Somehow, in writing a novel, Strout has lost the story.

It's because this novel is messy and wrinkled and digressive that it ultimately rings true. Don't look for "unity of effect" in The Burgess Boys; rather, savor the authenticity of imperfection.

Strout does succeed, at times, in capturing the pace and quality of life in idiosyncratic, small-town Maine, and her snapshots of the changing seasons are precise and vivid.

For all its potential and Ms. Strout’s proven skill, “The Burgess Boys” asks too many questions and offers too few interesting answers.

There seems no limit to her sympathy, her ability to express, without the acrid tone of irony, our selfish, needy anxieties that only family can aggravate — and quell.