History and humanity flow through Empire Falls, Maine, like the strange flotsam washed up at the bend of the vast, slow-moving Knox River. The Whiting family, owners of the mills and the shirt factory, have sold out to a multinational. The Whiting men have invariably married women who make their lives a misery. C.B. Whiting was no exception. Now ...Read MoreHistory and humanity flow through Empire Falls, Maine, like the strange flotsam washed up at the bend of the vast, slow-moving Knox River. The Whiting family, owners of the mills and the shirt factory, have sold out to a multinational. The Whiting men have invariably married women who make their lives a misery. C.B. Whiting was no exception. Now his wife, Francine, the last Mrs Whiting, presides like a black widow spider over the declining fortunes of the town. Its hub is the Empire Grill, with a view down the avenue to the abandoned mill and factory. Miles Roby, a gentle, funny loser runs the grill and hopes one day to own it. Meantime, though, his wife has run off with his worst customer, he's anxious about his adored teenage daughter and his one-handed brother, his incorrigible father sponges off everyone, the police have Miles in their sights, and Mrs Whiting has her own plans for him. Here is a huge-hearted and magnificent novel by a master storyteller, marked by comic genius and a love of humankind with all its flaws and foibles. As it builds inexorably to a shocking climax, Russo constantly surprises with characters who creep under your guard to disarm you, a plot with as many twists and falls as the Know River itself, and an ending that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-04-09 In his biggest, boldest novel yet, the much-acclaimed author of Nobody's Fool and Straight Man subjects a full cross-section of a crumbling Maine mill town to piercing, compassionate scrutiny, capturing misfits, malefactors and misguided honest citizens alike in the steady beam of his prose. Wealthy, controlling matriarch Francine Whiting lives in an incongruous Spanish-style mansion across the river from smalltown Empire Falls, dominated by a long-vacant textile mill and shirt factory, once the center of her husband's family's thriving manufacturing dominion. In his early 40s, passive good guy Miles Roby, the son of Francine's husband's long-dead mistress, seems helpless to escape his virtual enslavement as longtime proprietor of the Whiting-owned Empire Grill, the town's most popular eatery, which Francine has promised to leave him when she dies. Miles's wife, Janine, is divorcing him and has taken up with an aging health club entrepreneur. In her senior year in high school, their creative but lonely daughter, Tick, is preoccupied by her parents' foibles and harassed by the bullying son of the town's sleazy cop who, like everyone else, is a puppet of the domineering Francine. Struggling to make some sense of her life, Tick tries to befriend a boy with a history of parental abuse. To further complicate things, Miles's brother, David, is suspected of dealing marijuana, and their rascally, alcoholic father is a constant annoyance. Miles and David's secret plan to open a competing restaurant runs afoul of Francine just as tragedy erupts at the high school. Even the minor members of Russo's large cast are fully fleshed, and forays into the past lend the narrative an extra depth and resonance. When it comes to evoking the cherished hopes and dreams of ordinary people, Russo is unsurpassed. (May) Forecast: A 100,000-copy first printing of this impressive effort would probably fly off shelves even without the support of a 16-city author tour, national advertising and promotion, national media appearances, bookmarks, posters and a reading group guide. Returning with a flourish to familiar smalltown territory after his foray into academia with Straight Man, Russo could make a splash on big-city bestseller lists. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2001-09-03 In the small Maine town of Empire Falls, replete with long defunct logging and textile mills, the Whiting clan embarks on its inexorable demise. The family has owned the town and controlled its environment, economy and inhabitants for generations. Why and how they bring about their own demise unfolds slowly, character by character, incident by incident, year by year. Listeners move as if by free association back and forth in time, layering the lives of Whitings and Robys, and learning about the families' complex interweaving that shapes all of their members. The book begins slowly, but readers are drawn ever deeper into the social saga and closer to the characters' strengths and weaknesses. Protagonist Miles Roby, forced by his mother's early death to abandon his college career, returns home to manage the Whiting family's Empire Grill, and meanwhile deals with divorce, devotion and devastation. McLarty sports a fine reading voice and makes excellent narrative choices. He has only a few special voices (e.g., Miles's profligate father), but it's always clear who is speaking. Free of emphatic attempts at characterization or dramatization, his subtle, unobtrusive narration allows Russo's terrific story to shine. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 9). (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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