Top positive review
This Book Is Beautifully Written and Profoundly Moving. Quite Simply, It Is a Masterpiece.
Reviewed in the United States on March 13, 2019
The quick review: This is now one of my favorite books…ever. It is nearly perfect because of the brilliant way author Elizabeth Strout crafts the story. It is truly a masterpiece.
This a tale about the Burgess family—three kids: Jim, Bob and Susan. They are grown now. Jim is a hotshot and famous attorney, who is married to Helen and living a life everyone envies. Bob, who is divorced but still best friends with his ex-wife, is also an attorney, but he has so many emotional issues and conflicts from a childhood tragedy that he is a low-power version of his big brother. Both live in New York City, having fled their home state of Maine. Susan, Bob's twin, is bitterly divorced and still lives in their small hometown of Shirley Falls, Maine, which is no longer the white enclave it once was. Somalis have been immigrating en masse, and many in town are having trouble adjusting to this significant population change. Susan's son, Zach, is 19 and troubled. Very troubled. He commits what he thinks is a prank, but others consider the act so evil it could be a hate crime.
While the plot—a classic us vs. them—is definitely engrossing, the genius of the story is rendered in the characters, the Burgess kids, their spouses and friends, as well as one of the Somalis in town. Each has his or her own sub-plot going on and together become a kind of mirror image of the themes of the main story: In so many ways, we are all strangers to one another. We are all in turmoil and distress. We hurt each other, sometimes on purpose and sometimes not, but we are all in need of welcome and love.
This beautifully written book is not only profoundly moving, but also an emotionally-searing tale for our times.