Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner

Empire Falls by Richard Russo


Publisher: Vintage

Length: 496 pages

About: American blue-collar heartache and hilarity

Style: 3rd person

Where: Maine, US

When: 1990s



Publisher’s synopsis:

Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it’s Janine, Miles’ soon-to-be ex-wife, who’s taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it’s the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town–and seems to believe that “everything” includes Miles himself.




Perhaps he was frightened by the sheer prospect of matrimony, of marrying a girl he would one day want to murder.
Elijah Whiting, now nearing one hundred, had not succeeded in killing his wife with the shovel, nor had he recovered from the disappointment. The two of them still lived in the carriage house, old Elijah clinging to his misery and his bitter wife clinging to him.





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.

The Sunday Times, Lynne Truss, 22nd July 2001



Not so good:

Given the violence at the end, not to mention references to adultery, masturbation and dumb-as-a-post teachers and coaches, few English teachers may have the guts to recommend Empire Falls to their students.
That's too bad. It's a rare novel, thoughtful and entertaining, that can be savored by both adults and teenagers.

Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY 31st May 2001




About the author

Russo was born July 15 1949 in Johnstown, New York, and raised in nearby Gloversville. He earned a Bachelor's degree, a Master of Fine Arts degree, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Arizona, which he attended from 1967 through 1979.


Russo and his wife, Barbara, live in Camden, Maine, and spend winters in Boston. The couple have two daughters, Kate and Emily.  




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Age guide: 18






Novels by same author:



The novel was made into a two part mini-series that aired on HBO in 2005, starring Ed Harris, Helen Hunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Joanne Woodward, and Paul Newman (in his last live action role) and produced by Marc E. Platt. At the author's suggestion, much of it was filmed in Kennebunkport, Skowhegan, Winslow, and Waterville in Maine. It won a Golden Globe for Best Mini-Series in 2006.








2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

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