Empire Falls

  • by Richard Russo
  • Narrated by Ron McLarty
  • 20 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2002
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.


What the Critics Say

"In a warmhearted novel of sweeping scope.... Russo follows up his rollicking academic satire, Straight Man (1997), with a return to the blue-collar melieu featured in his first three novels and once again shows an unerring sense of the rhythms of small-town life, balancing his irreverent, mocking humor with unending empathy for his characters and their foibles" (Booklist)


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Hugely Enjoyable

This is one of those books that holds your interest because you grow to care about the characters and just can't wait to find out what happens to them.
The reader does a marvelous job.
I took it from the car to the house and back to the car and I wish it had gone on longer.
Read full review

- margaret "gentle reader"

Lives of quiet desperation

When Thoreau observed that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” he may have just passed through Empire Falls and visited the Empire Grill. The inhabitants of this economically depressed town live with the unlikely hope that something good might happen to restore prosperity and jobs that had evaporated with the closing of the mills years before. Miles Roby, manager of the Empire Grill personifies this hope, as he believes that the former owner of the mills, and still owner of the grill, will leave the grill to him upon her death as reward for his two decades of service. This belief is how he justifies the stagnation of his life and his refusal to strive for change. Problem is, this tyrannical woman is of the breed of those who are just too mean to die. Still, he is a good man doing the best he can with a deck stacked against him. Flashbacks reveal a bit at a time how he, and others in his sphere, came to where they are today,creating (if there is such a thing) an intimate saga that covers both a very few months and several decades. Russo explores destiny, sacrifice, and penitence vs power and free will, and how love (in all of its forms) shades the decisions that shape our lives.

Darker than “Nobody’s Fool”, Russo still shows his genius at creating flesh and blood characters that, with few exceptions, are neither cloyingly good nor irredeemably bad, taking time to let us see day by day life from several characters’ POV. Russo’s writing is liberally sprinkled with his ironic humor and plain common sense that lets us see the lighter side of the human condition. Though Miles is the central character, Russo allows the supporting cast just the right amount of “screen time” to fully incorporate them into the bigger picture,

For readers who like quick reads and thrilling action, this may not satisfy. This is not a fast food book, it is a sit down meal, like the good yankee pot roast prepared by the parish priest’s housekeeper. Ron McLarty’s reading adds to the quality of this selection. Well recommended.
Read full review

- Janice "Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-11-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio