Posts Tagged ‘small town america’

3rd March
written by Steph
Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer

Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer

I’m sorry for the hiatus in reviews lately, but the latter half of February saw me in a rather big reading slump.  None of the books I was picking up held my interest for very long, and I just wasn’t feeling as though I wanted to spend my free time reading.  Hey, it happens!  I can’t say that I’m fully out of this funk, but I will say that this book helped a lot, because Empire Falls is a really good book (perhaps unsurprising, given that it won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize). Prior to Empire Falls, I hadn’t read anything by Russo, so I really had no idea of what I was in for when I started this novel.  For what it’s worth, the back of the novel briefly mentions the novel takes place in a small town in Maine, Empire Falls, which has seen better days.  An accurate bit of trivia, but not really all that informative or revealing.  In a way, I think I profited from the relatively terse description on the novel’s back flap, as a good portion of the fun with this novel was just immersing myself in its world and seeing what would unfold next.  At its heart, this novel revolves are Miles Roby, who grew up in Empire Falls and runs the struggling Empire Grill.  Also featured are his teenage daughter, Tick and estranged wife, Janine who is leaving him for the local gym owner, Walt Cormeau.  Behind the scenes, but pulling all the strings is elderly Francine Whiting, the Whiting family being the only prosperous family in all of Empire Falls.  I think it’s fair to describe this novel as a “slice of life” as it generally follows the trials and tribulations of small town people living in a small town in close detail, such that the reader really feels like he or she is there.  Accordingly, we learn of the town’s history as well as the personal histories of this rich cast of characters (there are tons of secondary characters to boot, all of them contributing to the sense that one is reading about a really vibrant and vivid family), and certain secrets are revealed along the way, too.  It’s the kind of novel that operates on the “slow boil” principle – for a long while it seems like really nothing is happening, but eventually you find yourself sucked in as things gradually begin to spiral and suddenly tons of stuff is happening.  At times I felt that maybe Russo could have stood to chop bits here and there – the novel clocks in at nearly 500 pages – but I think it would be difficult for Russo’s characters to resonate and forge emotional connections with the reader if we were afforded a brisker read.  They’ve all spent so much time with one another, so it’s very rewarding to feel at the end of it all that you’ve experienced something along with all of them and have a good grasp of Empire Falls’ denizens.  I think after spending a week or so reading this book, you can’t help but feel connected to the people contained within its pages. (more…)