Sunday, February 12, 2006

Book Review: Empire Falls

HBO made a riveting two-part movie of Empire Falls by Richard Russo, a great narrative. They did the book justice, following it devotedly chapter by chapter. Still, as much as I liked the movie, I liked the book best.

Richard Russo is an excellent writer, as you’ll find in Empire Falls. You’ll relate to the interesting characters, enjoy the vivid descriptions of the town and the times, and reach the end caring deeply for this man of poor means and the people he interacts with every day of his otherwise rich life.

As I said, the book is filled with rich, vivid characters. There's the main character, who has spent his life trying to leave this sleepy, dying New England town only to be pulled back time and again, ultimately to run a diner owned but restrained by the town's richest family. And then there's his recently divorced wife who just wants to be loved -- she's about to marry the town's health club owner, a bombastic, self-assured health nut who has taken an irritating liking to the main character. Let's see, there's also the town matron who keeps a tight grip on the town that is her family's empire and who takes pleasure in putting down the main character. In flashbacks, you'll also meet her timid husband who once fell in love with the main character's wife but who takes his life when the main character was a child. Paul Newman won a Golden Globe this year by playing the main character's father, a listless, irresponsible, irrepressable, but certainly lovable scallawag who is less a dad and more an occasional houseguest. There is also the main character's brother who helps him run the restaurant, his daughter who loves her father and can't stand her mother or her mother's boyfriend, the main character's mother-in-law who appreciates him far more than her selfish daughter, and a retired priest who suffers from Alzheimers and can be counted on to say what he thinks however inappropriate and leaves town with the main character's father and the parish's cash. They all breathe life to this memorable narrative that seems long until you get to the last page and wish it could go on and on.

Reading Resources
Editorial Reviews by and Publisher’s Weekly
(scroll down below the fold)

Other books by Richard Russo
Richard Russo interview on BookPage
● Article in
World Literature Today (scroll down)
● HBO Web pages on Empire Falls including various interviews

No comments: