Fans of "Olive Kitteridge" will certainly be excited to read another Strout novel. I know I was! This novel focuses on a small Maine town in transition as Somali immigrants try to assimilate and retain some of their culture, while juxtaposing this lifestyle with the bustle of urban New York.
"The Burgess Boys" focuses on the family dynamics of eldest brother Jim, his wife Helen, and Jim's younger twin siblings, Bob and Susan. Strout has a gift in her ability to develop strong characters, most of whom are not very likable. She explores interesting themes, and backs them up with realistic characters and issues that make us think about ourselves, where we stand, and what we value.
I admit I was disappointed when I first read about the conflict in the story - Susan's son's lapse of judgment (deemed a hate crime) in a mosque. I was expecting the typical child-gone-wild story that we hear too often in the news and through other works of fiction. But, I actually enjoyed the slower paced unraveling of the story and the nuances of the relationship between the Somali immigrant community in Maine and those who had grown up and raised families in this small New England town.
"The Burgess Boys" isn't a page-turning-stay-up-all-night sort of read. It's a slow, thoughtful examination of family, parenting, culture, and humanity. If you like slice-of-life books that make you think, question yourself and the world around you, you'll enjoy "The Burgess Boys". It will be available for purchase on March 26, 2013.
I received an advance copy of this novel from the publisher.