Empire Falls (2001), the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Richard Russo, had for some reason never made it to my want-to-read list; but when I saw it used for $3 I changed my mind and decided to give it a try. The book describes life in a small town and hits the nail right on the head. It is a fascinating character study of small-town life and how people interact in that environment. All that homey, warm, supportive community that small towns are supposed to be filled with? Russo doesn't see it, which somehow makes me feel better that I never saw it either.
It was adapted for television in 2005.
from the back of the book:
Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it's Janine, Miles's soon-to-be ex-wife, who's taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it's the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town -and seems to believe that "everything" includes Miles himself. In Empire Falls Richard Russo delves deep into the blue-collar heart of America in a work that overflows with hilarity, heartache, and grace.Salon.com says,
It’s the kind of big, sprawling, leisurely novel, full of subplots and vividly drawn secondary characters, that people are always complaining is an endangered species. Yet in part thanks to Russo’s deft satiric touch — much of the book is laugh-out-loud funny — it never feels too slow or old-fashioned.January Magazine concludes,
Empire Falls is a stunning, tragicomic portrait of the lives contained there. Russo's dialog snaps and his descriptions resonate but it's his understanding of humanity and his ability to portray his characters with equal measures of dignity, grace and humor that quietly astounds. Empire Falls is a perfectly rendered portrait of small town, blue collar life.Kirkus Reviews calls it "very much the crowning achievement of Russo’s remarkable career." Publishers Weekly says, "When it comes to evoking the cherished hopes and dreams of ordinary people, Russo is unsurpassed." Entertainment Weekly has a positive review.