Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When Your Favorite Book Follows You

By Julianna Haubner    |   Monday, December 29, 2014
For many, the question “What’s your favorite book?” elicits feelings of terror, dread, and exhaustion. Racking your brain for that semi-impressive title that will show you pay attention, that you’re intellectually evolved, that you’re interesting, you might say you don’t have one, that there are too many to count. For a small period of time, I took this approach. Then, when I was fourteen, I found it. The elusive “life-changing, best-of-all-time, can’t-put-down-and-never-want-to” book. Now, whenever someone asks me “the question,” the answer is immediate: Richard Russo’s 2002 novel Empire Falls.

Empire Falls is the Pulitzer Prize–winning story of Miles Roby, a lifelong resident of the titular small town, who manages the crumbling Empire Grill and is in the midst of a divorce from his wife, Janine. He has a pot-selling, former alcoholic for a brother, an introverted but incredibly bright teenager for a daughter, and a wealthy family slowly buying out the town as an antagonist. The book flashes between Miles’ present and past, revealing things about his family life, the town’s descent into bankruptcy, and the relationships between people who have never known anyone or anywhere else but this old mill town. I can’t really say much more about it, because the beauty of the book is in its details and last-minute twists, but it’s a phenomenal representation of small-town life, family dynamics, and the decline of the American Dream.


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