The Ups and Downs of Family and The Downs and Ups of "The Burgess Boys"

We’ve had a crazy week. This time of the school year is always crazy. We’re getting ready for the end of elementary school for my older daughter, which means planning a whole celebration and a committee–luckily this committee is made up of some of my favorite moms. We are full steam into lacrosse, and it has been cold, so that means sitting along side a field cheering for said older daughter, and watching all the tween drama that goes into a bunch of nine and ten year-old girls fighting for a small ball with large sticks. Oh, and her dad (my wonderful husband) is coaching, so I get to cheer for him, too.

And there is daughter number two. Dance recital time. I don’t know that I’ve shared this, but my younger daughter has Down syndrome, so her dance class is always fun. But this time of the year it’s always a little nerve-racking, wondering if she and her wonderous special needs dance class will pull off the dance. This year they are dancing to Katy Perry’s Firework, my daughters absolute FAVORITE song, so getting her to dance and NOT sing is difficult.

This year we also have the fun of a tax audit (ugh), an endoscopy for my younger daughter (to verify that she has Celiac disease) and a visit to the endocrinologist (because she may have thyroid issues as well). All this in the next two weeks. I’m so tired. But family is family, as ‘The Burgess Boys’  teaches us.  And here’s the review.

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I have to say WOW to “The Burgess Boys.” I had the luxury of listening to this book, and it was wonderful. I cannot wait to sit down and read it. Strout writes beautifully, and at times I felt that someone was in my ear reading poetry, the words are so lyrical and beautiful.

But that’s just the wonderous icing on this story cake. The characters in this story are so well developed that you really know them. Although I’m done with the book, I’m worried about Jim and Bob, Susan and Zach, even Helen and Pam. I want to contact someone in the family and check on everyone…that is how attached I became to “The Burgess Boys” and the rest of the clan as I read this wonderful book. Strout did a phenomenal job with “Olive Kitteridge” and managed to recreate the same character magic in “The Burgess Boys”.

With so many characters there is a chance that one or two won’t be well developed, but even the ‘minor’ characters have incredible depth. We see the Burgess family at the height of their jerkiness, each in a different way, and we see them all find their way back to humanity, realizing that family does best when they work together.

We also get to see bleak, stark Maine and its epic struggle to hang onto its identity while accepting immigrants, something with which Maine seems to have trouble. Maine has had influxes of immigrants, from French Canadian loggers and Swedish factory workers who came to Maine for jobs to modern day Somalis fleeing a war torn county.

This is the story of family, and what people will do for family. There are times in the Burgess family lives when they can’t stand each other, but they come together because they need each other. Each member of the family falls way down into the pit of despair, but they make it back up into the good parts of life. This isn’t a happy ending story, but it’s not a sad ending either. It’s an ending to a part of life, and that means there’s some good and some bad.

Definitely read, or listen to,The Burgess Boys. And if you haven’t done it yet, check out Olive Kitteridge. You won’t be disappointed.

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