Top critical review
This is a good book, but it's a very dense book.
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2017
This is a good book, but it's a very dense book. It's a sweeping story about Empire Falls, a rural blue-collar New England town, and the people who inhabit it.
Miles Roby is the central character, living his depressing middle-age life flipping burgers at the local diner, inexorably tethered to Empire Falls in spite of himself. Surrounding Miles are a whole cast of quintessential small-town characters, including his high school daughter, Tick; his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Janine and his abrasive father, Max.
Russo digs deep into each of the characters, fleshing them out with carefully crafted prose and realistic dialogue. Although everyone in this close-knit community ostensibly knows each other quite well, there are secrets that, once revealed, could change everything. This is the case for Miles, whose own late mother remains a mystery and a source of deep-seated heartache.
Empire Falls is the kind of book that reminds you of the truth that each individual harbors his or her own private pain and yearning, and that these internal motivations can be confounding even to close loved ones.
There's certainly a lot of depth here and I appreciate that. I usually love character-driven novels most of all. But this one is bordering on too dense and too detailed for my liking, often requiring me to force myself to power through it.
This is clearly a universally loved book, so I don't want to deter anyone from reading it. It's ultimately satisfying and edifying, but there's a lot of detail to slog through along the way.