Empire Falls – Richard Russo

A story about a man, his daughter and the community they live in. Miles Roby is a man with a sense of humour and a penchant for spotting signs that don’t quite make sense or have typos, a trait he shares with his teenage daughter.  It’s not gentle, but it does have a lot of gentleness throughout in the love Miles has for his daughter, in the relationship he has with his ex-mother-in-law and the relationship he has with his ex-wife’s new husband.

I loved the writing in this book. I admit to having read it in audio form and that made it more special as the voice did a very good job. The writing was just lovely, there was brilliant characterisation, I could visualise the people and the township, I could visualise the hardship some of them dealt with in order to just get through their lives. I was unsurprised to find the book won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002, well deserved. Richard Russo has written a number of other books and I’m going to be adding them to my To Be Read pile in due course.

I mentioned the book is not gentle and that’s true, it deals with many challenging situations such as Miles being invited to his ex-wife’s wedding, and having to deal with her new husband on an almost daily basis, such as having a priest with Alzheimers who feels the confessional is a good place to pick up gossip. There are much harder situations in this book but I won’t give you spoilers.  Russo deals with many of these situations with humour but doesn’t minimise the challenges Miles faces.  Russo gently guides us towards the biggest problem of all, one that many people in today’s community will recognise, one that has devastated many schools in America…but I promised no more spoilers.  If you want to know more I suggest you buy a box of tissues and then the book, you won’t regret it.