The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys

By Elizabeth Strout

  • Release Date: 2013-03-26
  • Genre: Literary
Score: 4
From 606 Ratings
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes Elizabeth Strout’s never-before-published essay about the origins of The Burgess Boys


The Washington Post • NPR • Good Housekeeping

Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Strout’s “magnificent gift for humanizing characters.” Now the acclaimed author returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature.
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 readers long after they turn the final page. 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.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

“What truly makes Strout exceptional . . . is the perfect balance she achieves between the tides of story and depths of feeling.”Chicago Tribune

“Strout’s prose propels the story forward with moments of startlingly poetic clarity.”The New Yorker
“Elizabeth Strout’s first two books, Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle, were highly thought of, and her third, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. But The Burgess Boys, her most recent novel, is her best yet.”The Boston Globe
“A portrait of an American community in turmoil that’s as ambitious as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral but more intimate in tone.”Time
“[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again. . . . At times [The Burgess Boys is] almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and . . . startling riffs of gripping emotion.”—Associated Press
“[Strout] is at her masterful best when conjuring the two Burgess boys. . . . Scenes between them ring so true.”San Francisco Chronicle

From the Trade Paperback edition.


  • Didn’t want it to end.

    By Jazzercise1981
    This book was lovely on so many fronts.
  • A miss

    By LordGigant
    I expected more from the number of positive reviews but was disappointed and had to speed read to get through it. The characters weren’t developed and were depressing - the story itself wasn’t interesting because of that. In the end I just didn’t care what their backstory or even current story was.
  • Masterful Storytelling

    By Sue.79
    Complicated yet clearly written, this story takes off in many unexpected directions. Much of the action is directed by questions of place, personality, circumstance and deception, with a good look at preconceived perceptions of native and immigrant populations. Fulfilling and thought provoking.
  • The Burgess Boys

    By Perky too
    Sorry, #6...this book was anything but slow. Beautifully written, with very interesting characters, each one with his/her own story. I have read all of Elizabeth Strout's books and this is her best work.
  • Reader

    By Lee Chinalai
    Half the book is now highlighted with sentences I found staggeringly phrased, beautiful or insightful, or usually all three. I want to sit down and have a cup of tea with Elizabeth Strout who has become one of my favorite authors. The disappointment in finishing The Burgess Boys thank is matched by the anticipation of reading Abide with Me. Thank goodness.
  • The Burgess Boys

    By Book looker
    Wonderful book! Don't you love books about Maine. Well written a page turner.
  • Boring

    By goshgolly
    A slllllloooooowwwwwv read. I kept waiting for a twist in the story, something to boost it, but it never came. I couldn't get through it. Very disappointing.
  • Took a chance

    By semistheblood
    This book was an unexpected pleasure to read. Terrific character development and a story well told. I will definately look into her other books, as this was the first I had read by her.
  • All in a Name

    By Mkburg
    The only reason I chose to read this book is because my name is Burgess, and I was curious. Now, I want it read other books by Ms Strout. The character development was thorough and the author took the opportunity to weave different cultures and diversity into a fabric of family and community.
  • Good story

    By Srwcapecod
    I enjoyed this book. The story is told around an event that really happened in Maine in 2006 when a pig's head was rolled into a Somali Mosque during Ramadan. The characters all have their own dysfunction but are quite believable. I found this story interesting in that it must be so difficult for some people to acclimate to the U.S. only because they can no longer live in their own country for fear of death. It is interesting when one of the characters from Maine goes to NY for the first time in her life and finds it so foreign and difficult to get around. She realizes it must be how the Somalis feel about living in the U.S.