Elizabeth Strout, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her 2008 novel Olive Kitteridge, has an extraordinary talent for homing in on the dropped stitch in the family fabric, and family is what The Burgess Boys is really about. There are unnecessary diversions, but she always comes back to a family’s idea of itself, and the essential frailty of the things it holds up as certainties.
Jim and Bob Burgess grew up in Shirley Falls, a small, dull town in Maine. They both escaped to New York as quickly as possible. Jim, the elder brother, became a rich corporate lawyer who married money and makes enormous efforts to rise above what he feels is a depressingly