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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I loved Richard Russo's Pulitzer-winning Empire Falls, a moving, brilliantly imagined and intensely satisfying novel about the slow death of a small town: Russo's characters are as loveable and as exasperating as family -
His natural grace as a storyteller is matched by his compassion for his characters -
Like Anne Tyler, Russo is interested in how people rub along; in kindness and responsibility; in cutting slack without being asked. In the Empire Grill he has created a place so involving that not only can you see and smell it, but you start to feel a bit left out of the gin rummy. Russo makes an enormous job of story-telling look effortless. He is, in all the best senses of the word, a natural - Sunday Times
Richard Russo can write like Edith Wharton leavened with a touch of David Lodge - Economist
Russo's command of his story is unerring... He satisfies every expectation without lapsing into predictability, and the last section of the book explodes with surprises...One of the best novelists around - New York Times
Another fine performance... This is a big novel with a full canvas of human passions. Russo, a humane and traditional teller of truths, sustains his story and his readers - Irish Times
Russo writes with a warm, vibrant humanity - Washington Post
The world of Empire Falls is at least distantly related to those of John Cheever's Wapshot novels... an unpretentious master of fictional technique whose deeper wisdom expresses itself in the distinctive fallibility, decency, humor, and grace of the indisputably, irresistibly real people he puts on the page - Boston Globe
Russo's inimitable blend of Eudora Welty, Anne Tyler and Booth Tarkington, removed to declining New England and graced with surprises all his own, makes for terrific reading, fast, funny and illuminating - Chicago Tribune
Richard Russo won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for his fifth novel, Empire Falls. He is also the author of Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody’s Fool, Straight Man, Bridge of Sighs and That Old Cape Magic, as well as a collection of stories, The Whore’s Child; and a memoir, On Helwig Street. His original screenplay is the basis for Rowan Atkinson’s film Keeping Mum. He lives with his wife in Maine.