April 2013 Books

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

13 of 15
The Burgess Boys
336 pages; Random House
Even as middle-aged lawyers who long ago escaped their hometown for New York City, Bob and Jim Burgess still stagger under the guilt of a freak accident that killed their father when they were children. In Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys (Random House), a crisis with their nephew compels them to return to Shirley Falls, Maine, and revisit the fatal tragedy. As in her Pulitzer Price-winning Olive Kitteridge, Strout deftly exposes the tensions that fester among families. But she also takes a broader view, probing cultural divides -- from the mutual distrust of locals and Somali refugees who've settled in Shirley Falls to the resentment and disdain underlying relationships between those who grew up poor and privileged Americans, such as Jim's heiress wife, Helen, who has observed that the Burgess family is "hillbilly, rube trash." Illustrating the power of roots, Strout assures us we can go home again - tough we may not want to.