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9780099422273

Empire Falls

Russo, Richard

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9780099422273: Empire Falls

Empire Falls, Maine: once a thriving hub of industry, this small town nestles in a bend of the vast and winding Knox River, and has always been the empire of the wealthy Whiting family. Now the last Mrs Whiting presides like a black widow spider over its declining fortunes. She harbours a grudge against her employee Miles Groby, who runs the Whiting-owned Empire Grill, but hopes one day to own it himself. Miles, gentle and hopeless, has other problems: his wife has run off with his worst customer, he frets about his adored teenage daughter, and his drunken father sponges off everyone. As the novel builds to a shocking climax, Russo constantly surprises with characters who will disarm you, a plot with as many twists and falls as the Knox River itself, and an ending that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

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Like most of Richard Russo's earlier novels, Empire Falls is a tale of blue-collar life, which itself increasingly resembles a kind of high-wire act performed without the benefit of any middle-class safety nets. This time, though, the author has widened his scope, producing a comic and compelling ensemble piece. There is, to be sure, a protagonist: fortysomething Miles Roby, proprietor of the local greasy spoon and the recently divorced father of a teenage daughter. But Russo sets in motion a large cast of secondary characters, drawn from every social stratum of his depressed New England mill town. We meet his ex-wife Janine, his father Max (another of Russo's cantankerous layabouts), and a host of Empire Grill regulars. We're also introduced to Francine Whiting, a manipulative widow who owns half the town--and who takes a perverse pleasure in pointing out Miles's psychological defects.

Miles does indeed have a tendency to take it on the chin. (At one point he alludes to his own "natural propensity for shit-eating.") And his role as Mr. Nice Guy thrusts him into all sorts of clashes with his not-so-nice contemporaries, even as the reader patiently waits for him to blow his top. It would be impossible to summarize Russo's multiple plot lines here. Suffice it to say that he touches on love and marriage, lust and loss and small-town economics, with more than a soupçon of class resentment stirred into the broth. This is, in a sense, an epic of small and large frustrations: "After all, what was the whole wide world but a place for people to yearn for their heart's impossible desires, for those desires to become entrenched in defiance of logic, plausibility, and even the passage of time, as eternal as polished marble." Yet Russo's comedic timing keeps the novel from collapsing into an orgy of breast-beating, and his dialogue alone--snappy and natural and efficiently poignant--is sufficient cause to put Empire Falls on the map. --Bob Brandeis

From the Inside Flap:


Richard Russo—from his first novel, Mohawk, to his most recent, Straight Man—has demonstrated a peerless affinity for the human tragicomedy, and with this stunning new novel he extends even further his claims on the small-town, blue-collar heart of the country.

Dexter County, Maine, and specifically the town of Empire Falls, has seen better days, and for decades, in fact, only a succession from bad to worse. One by one, its logging and textile enterprises have gone belly-up, and the once vast holdings of the Whiting clan (presided over by the last scion's widow) now mostly amount to decrepit real estate. The working classes, meanwhile, continue to eke out whatever meager promise isn't already boarded up.

Miles Roby gazes over this ruined kingdom from the Empire Grill, an opportunity of his youth that has become the albatross of his daily and future life. Called back from college and set to work by family obligations—his mother ailing, his father a loose cannon—Miles never left home again. Even so, his own obligations are manifold: a pending divorce; a troubled younger brother; and, not least, a peculiar partnership in the failing grill with none other than Mrs. Whiting. All of these, though, are offset by his daughter, Tick, whom he guides gently and proudly through the tribulations of adolescence.

A decent man encircled by history and dreams, by echoing churches and abandoned mills, by the comforts and feuds provided by lifelong friends and neighbors, Miles is also a patient, knowing guide to the rich, hardscrabble nature of Empire Falls: fathers and sons and daughters, living and dead, rich and poor alike. Shot through with the mysteries of generations and the shattering visitations of the nation at large, it is a social novel of panoramic ambition, yet at the same time achingly personal. In the end, Empire Falls reveals our worst and best instincts, both our most appalling nightmares and our simplest hopes, with all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling.

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Book Description VINTAGE, United Kingdom, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 214 x 149 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. Empire Falls, Maine: once a thriving hub of industry, this small town nestles in a bend of the vast and winding Knox River, and has always been the empire of the wealthy Whiting family. Now the last Mrs Whiting presides like a black widow spider over its declining fortunes. She harbours a grudge against her employee Miles Groby, who runs the Whiting-owned Empire Grill, but hopes one day to own it himself. Miles, gentle and hopeless, has other problems: his wife has run off with his worst customer, he frets about his adored teenage daughter, and his drunken father sponges off everyone. As the novel builds to a shocking climax, Russo constantly surprises with characters who will disarm you, a plot with as many twists and falls as the Knox River itself, and an ending that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099422273

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Book Description VINTAGE, United Kingdom, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 194 x 130 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. Empire Falls, Maine: once a thriving hub of industry, this small town nestles in a bend of the vast and winding Knox River, and has always been the empire of the wealthy Whiting family. Now the last Mrs Whiting presides like a black widow spider over its declining fortunes. She harbours a grudge against her employee Miles Groby, who runs the Whiting-owned Empire Grill, but hopes one day to own it himself. Miles, gentle and hopeless, has other problems: his wife has run off with his worst customer, he frets about his adored teenage daughter, and his drunken father sponges off everyone. As the novel builds to a shocking climax, Russo constantly surprises with characters who will disarm you, a plot with as many twists and falls as the Knox River itself, and an ending that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099422273

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Book Description 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 129mm x 198mm x 31mm. Paperback. 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 s.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 496 pages. 0.351. Bookseller Inventory # 9780099422273

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Book Description Vintage, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Brand New Book. Shipping: Once your order has been confirmed and payment received, your order will then be processed. The book will be located by our staff, packaged and despatched to you as quickly as possible. From time to time, items get mislaid en route. If your item fails to arrive, please contact us first. We will endeavour to trace the item for you and where necessary, replace or refund the item. Please do not leave negative feedback without contacting us first. All orders will be dispatched within two working days. If you have any quesions please contact us. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099422273

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Book Description Vintage, 2002. paperback. Book Condition: New. *** NEW COPY *** TITLE SHIPPED FROM UK *** Binding paperback Empire Falls, Maine: once a thriving hub of industry, this small town nestles in a bend of the vast and winding Knox River, and has always been the empire of the wealthy Whiting family. Now the last Mrs Whiting presides like a black widow spider. Bookseller Inventory # 0099422271

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Book Description Vintage, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. new ed edition. 496 pages. 7.80x5.12x1.22 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # __0099422271

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