The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys

A Novel

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Catalyzed by a nephew's thoughtless prank, a pair of brothers confront painful psychological issues surrounding the freak accident that killed their father when they were boys, a loss linked to a heartbreaking deception that shaped their personal and professional lives.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2013.
ISBN: 9781400067688
Characteristics: 320 p. ;,25 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

AL_ANNAL Dec 14, 2017

Interesting, flawed characters. I love the way the story plays out among the three siblings and their families.

Dec 10, 2016

The Burgess Boys was supposed to be about how a teenage boy commits a hate crime against (called a prank) the Somalis living in his town and it affects the community and his family. I thought, “Oh, this could be so interesting! What would happen if someone I love committed a hate crime? How would I react? Hopefully I’ll learn more about the Somali culture through this book too.” What it was instead was how these white affluent characters tried to wiggle out of blame for this kid’s crime. One lawyer had to give a hollow apology to the townspeople and then made a hasty departure and worried over the fact that his reputation had been ruined. His brother moaned all book about what his role had been in their father’s death as a kid and how he’d been in his brother’s shadow his whole life and that he wasn’t as successful of a lawyer. Really? Poor guy. Ugh. And then the Somalis in the book are given very little actual time. In this 300+ page book, I’d guess maybe 10 percent of it had anything to do with the Somalis. Some of the townspeople would say demeaning things about the refugees and the author did little to counter those comments. I said more than once out loud, “Is this book racist?” It felt racist. It cared more about the two white, affluent lawyers and their lame personal crises and their sister and her kid (who, by the way, gets sent to Europe to live with his rich dad and finds confidence and happiness, woo-freaking-hoo, lucky kid) than the Somalis in the town who remained uncomfortable and scared. One Somali man seemed to try to find a connection to the people of the town, but it felt so much like an afterthought. I really felt like Strout missed a major opportunity here to discuss cultural relations and to show how a community could open its arms and accept a group of people who are seeking asylum. But nope.

Sep 26, 2016

I enjoyed this book for the character development, the timely subject matter, and the movement of the story. I have read Elizabeth Strout before and I do think her character development is one of her strong suits. I could picture the three siblings as though I was watching a movie, seeing their movements and expressions through her descriptions. The story also had some small surprise developments along the way which kept you interested as well.

Jul 16, 2016

This is a story of three siblings, each burdened by guilt in some way. The presence of a Somali community in small town Maine is interesting, but they are remain superficial characters, as seen by the people in the town. This is a liberal perspective on middle class life. The quality of the writing masks the commonplaceness of the narrative.

sandy165 Jul 18, 2015


Jul 11, 2015

This was a great book. Full of surprises and suspense.

Jun 09, 2015

[2014 Bailey Prize FINALIST] Brothers, Jim and Bob Burgess are both lawyers in NYC but with varying levels of success, both professionally and socially. Their sister still lives in the small Maine town where they were raised. When her son’s thoughtless prank becomes imbued with much more meaning, the brothers are asked to return Shirley Falls to provide legal assistance and advice. The sibling rivalry that defined the boys as children still exists and the story is as much about relationships as it is about the crime with which Zach is charged.

VV3 Feb 04, 2015

If you enjoy books that deal with family dynamics, "The Burgess Boys" is a good one as a crisis in the family brings sibling relationships to the forefront and changes them all. This book is a good one for Book Discussion groups with lots of interwoven themes to discover.

FederalWayEdna Dec 30, 2014

Strout excels in characterization - this time, she has created a complex adult siblings' relationship that is frustrating for the reader who has to wonder why these two brothers and their sister even bother talking to each other. The more you read, the more you understand their complicated bond when the brothers return to their small hometown in Maine to help their sister and her son who is arrested for tossing a pig's head into a mosque. Secrets are exposed including one that includes the premature death of their father.

Nov 16, 2014

Can I get 2 copies please.

Thank You

View All Comments


Add a Quote

sharonb122 Apr 06, 2013

p. 311: Bob to Jim: "You have family. You have a wife who hates you. Kids who are furious with you. A brother and sister who make you insane. And a nephew who used to be kind of a drip but apparently is not so much of a drip now. That's called family."

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top