by

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys
Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys is the story of a family: brothers Jim and Bob, and their sister Susan; as well as their respective spouses, exes, and children. When Jim, Bob, and Susan were very young, they were in the car when an accident killed their father. Bob has always believed himself to be responsible. The heavy burden he carries has led him to a solitary life in a small apartment with lots of alcohol. Jim, on the other hand, has become a successful and famous lawyer with a lovely family and a nice house. Unlike her brothers, Susan did not move to New York but stayed in their hometown, where she also has a small, cold life. Her only joy is her son, Zach- until his teenage prank mushrooms into a hate crime against the Somali Muslims that have immigrated to their hometown.
Zach’s legal case forms the framework for The Burgess Boys, but it is not the story: the story is the brothers, Jim and Bob, and their struggle to navigate their relationships with each other and the people around them. This is not a book with lots of action or major plot points, but it is a book with incredible character development. The narration rotates among a handful of main players, allowing the reader to see the characters from both their own and others perspectives.

Yes, The Burgess Boys is about immigration, racism, and the law. It is also about middle-aged marriage, divorce, and falling in love again. But ultimately, it is about family. It is about the narrative of who you are in your family, starting in early childhood, and how it shapes the person you are as an adult. Its about the Burgess boys, Jim and Bob, and the people they love -and hurt- the most.
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by

The Deepest Secret

The Deepest Secret
Carla Buckley.

Tyler celebrates his 14th birthday in the backyard, after dark. He has a rare disease called “XP” which makes UV light fatal. His mom Eve has done her best to shelter him, and their family life revolves around a series of elaborate protocals to keep Tyler safe. The reality is, tho, he will still probably die before he turns 20. Tyler’s older sister Melissa seems to accept their unusual life, but as she nears 16, she starts to buck against her parents’ rules. Their dad, David, is working in another state and struggling to stay close to his family.
Tyler’s family thinks they are doing ok (fatal disease notwithstanding) until the night Eve’s best friend’s daughter Amy goes missing. The seach for Amy takes over all of their lives. The strain of this tragedy, on top of their daily struggles, might just be too much.
Tyler has a secret: he sneaks out at night with a camera. At first he just took pictures of wildlife and plants, but soon he discovered the irresistable thrill of peering into his neighbors’ lives. Everyone has secrets, and Tyler knows a lot of them. But its the one secret he doesn’t know that could be the hardest for him to face.

The Deepest Secret could be classified as a fairly standard women’s novel. The chapters narrated by Eve and David are like a lot of other chapters about two married, disconnected people. But the chapters from Tyler’s perspective elevate this novel above the ordinary. His character and voice are unique. Its rare to read a novel with a 14 year old boy that has been this well developed.

Everyone has secrets. And The Deepest Secret will keep you turning the pages, wanting to find out all of them.
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