The Burgess Boys… by Elizabeth Strout

As a teenager, I was made to read The Catcher in the Rye as part of my required reading for the year. I HATED it—at first. We were given months to read and then write a paper on it. I picked it up 100 times, and I put it down just as many. I couldn’t get into it. I ended up waiting until the final week before the paper was due before forcing myself to read it cover to cover in one sitting. Today, it is still one of my favorite books. It was hard to get into initially, but once I reached a certain point, Holden had grabbed me by the hand and was whisking me through his world.

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys begins the same way, but ever since my misconception of The Catcher in the Rye, I’ve learned not to be too quick to judge and plod through until the value in the writing reveals itself.

There was no turn around with this book. No saving grace. My final thoughts after finishing – I hope there’s no sequel!

First, it began with a prologue. In my opinion and experience, 99% of the time, prologues are a means of cheating. It felt like an MC announcing the next act at a variety show.

There wasn’t a character in the book that I could say I actually liked. Bob and Susan were just plain condescending to each other almost all of the time. Right from the beginning, Bob drives to Susan to help her son, Zach, who has landed himself in trouble. Not only she doesn’t show appreciation, she picks at him. She does nothing to hide the fact that she would much prefer their older brother, Jim, to be there instead of her twin brother, Bob. It does not get better from there.

Too often, I felt as if the author lost her way among the many plots and subplots. I found (the story) to be a confusing read, although Strout’s writing is beautiful. She left me to feel as though I went for a joyride on a gorgeous Sunday, but saw little and never arrived anywhere.

Zach, although not the main character, leaves for Sweden a troubled adolescent and returns a solid young man. The things that changed him would have been worth including, but Strout left that out leaving us to find his transformation confusing and less believable.

The characters are not richly drawn and the plot was not engaging. Simply put – I spent an entire day on a book I found laborious and boring.

I have not read Olive Kitteridge and even though it was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, I believe I will wait until I run out of books with more initial appeal before picking it up.

I rated it a generous 2-stars.

Ink Drop Reviews and Interviews are conducted and maintained by Kathy Reinhart, author of Missouri in a Suitcase, The Red Strokes, and the award-winning, national best seller, Lily White Lies.

Lily White Lies

Lily White Lies


About K.E. Garvey

Gather 'round and let me tell you a story... View all posts by K.E. Garvey


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