Friday, April 27, 2012

Catching up on book posts: Empire Falls

Ah, back in the habit. March was too busy for much reading, but I'm gladly back in Booktown this month.  I have said it before and I will say it again: being in an MFA program is WORTH. IT. if only for the book recommendations I'm getting.  I enjoyed the heck out of this recent read (and I'm so getting used to reading things that don't suck).  I'm becoming such a book snob.

Bonus: Now that I'm done I can check out (my) Paul Newman in the 2005 HBO miniseries based on the book. Good book + Paul Newman + HBO?  That's an equation that makes sense to me.

Okay, I've started this book post about three times since I finished the book. Time to finish the post.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Empire Falls is a great read with an easy feel to it.  This is just the kind of book I dig.  The book takes place in Empire Falls, Maine, a mining town that's all but extinct.  It's full of (for lack of a better term) colorful characters: the crochety old man, the newly-divorced wife who's redefining herself, the angsty teenager, the disapproving matron, the town full of lovable stereotypes.  Empire Falls felt comfortable for me to read; it didn't race to any kind of conclusions, but I also couldn't really tell where it was going to end up.  For me, that's a good read.

The main character of Empire Falls is Miles Roby, the newly divorced father of an awkward teenager and son to the drunk and manipulative Max Roby.  The last remnant of the family that once controlled the town, Francine Whiting, still holds power over Max and exerts it whenever it suits her.  The book is about family, secrets and the ephemeral nature of towns born out of industrialization.  It was funny.  I like funny.  It was also sad and familiar.  Russo writes characters that make sense and he envisions a town trying to hang on to the story of the glory it believes that it once had.  Whether that glory is real or a manufactured memory is up for debate.

This is just a story about people.  E read it right after me and he was surprised by how ordinary it was.  It's not boring--not at all--but it's a lovely look into families, legacies, guilt, obligation, and secrets without being sensational.  Just good writing about great characters.  I loved it. I would count it among my favorite things I've read in the past few years.

My recommendation: Yes.  Yes, sir.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not in an MFA program, but I am in a certificate program for literary fiction at University of Washington and it also has made me a huge book snob!!!