The Burgess Boys is the second book I have read by Elizabeth Strout; I also read Amy and Isabelle a few years ago and very much enjoyed it.
This novel is about grown-up siblings Jim, Bob and Susan. Their lives were rocked by a tragic accident during their childhood, which caused Bob and Jim to leave their hometown of Maine and move to New York. Now, many years later, the siblings have lives of their own – both good and bad – but the brothers find themselves back in Maine when Susan’s 19-year-old son Zach finds himself in trouble.
I really enjoyed this book, which reminded me of Anne Tyler in the way that it is very much about the characters and how they relate to each other. The perspective shifts a lot which I found worked well, as it gives you an insight into several of the characters and what motivates them. The relationship between the siblings themselves is most interesting – Bob and Jim are very different and they have a strained relationship – Jim is really unpleasant to Bob, but Bob just seems to tolerate it, while Susan is quite a cold character who has isolated herself. I really enjoyed how the story unfolded. There is also the perspective given of a Muslim elder who has moved to Maine, which is relevant to the story and also adds another interesting element to the novel.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It isn’t an action-packed thriller, but it is very much about the characters and their relationships, and what has made them behave the way they do. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Anne Tyler, and character-driven novels.
My rating: 9 out of 10