A few years ago I gave this writer’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Olive Kitteridge four stars, saying I’d like to read more of her work, so when this new book of hers came out I gave it a try. Its style is nothing like the scattered vignettes of Olive Kitteridge. This one is a linear story full of vivid characters and insightful commentary. I give it four stars as well; I am glad I read it, even though it is not really a “fun” book but rather one that is humanizing in a tough, good way.
The Burgess family was dysfunctional because of a tragedy early on. This novel is about their character development as adults – and they progress quite a lot in the course of the story. Not only about family, it is about culture and cultural clashes, and how little anyone can really know and understand another. There is a new crisis that propels the plot: a First Amendment court case over a hate crime perpetrated toward a Muslim Somali community in rural Maine. I loved that a Somali gentleman is the quiet hero of the story.
I come away from this deeply perceptive book wanting to be more compassionate and grateful toward others as well as (especially!) toward myself. Human experience is more complicated and complex than anyone can fully understand, while kindness and love are in great demand.