Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Burgess Boys

We were not united in our feelings about this book which always makes for an interesting discussion.  Kathy didn't care for any of the siblings and was especially disgusted by Jim, who always called the twins mean names and acted like he was a demigod.  She said she would have preferred that Strout have been selective in what she included in the book; she seemed to have tossed in issues that were on her mind.

Mary said she was taken by how a single lie (Jim's) could disrupt so many lives for so many years.  Peggy said she wasn't sure what we knew who was responsible for the accident.  Susan always thought it had been her since their mother had been so mean to her.

No one liked Helen or had much sympathy for her.  As despicable as Jim was, we liked his wife even less.  And in the final discussion, wondering if she would allow him back into her life, we were less interested in that than we were wondering how suicidal he was.

We loved Bob.  Who didn't love Bob!  It was nice to see Bob love Bob too, and when he started to love himself, he left the "graduate dorm" for a upscale apartment where he found himself picking up his own socks, the thing that so annoyed his wife Pam.  Ah Pam, we were so glad to see him stop being available to her needy moments and kindly step away.  The end of the book doesn't make Bob's future clear, but on the second page of the prologue Strout had written, "Bob's second wife, and we hoped his last, was a Unitarian minister."  It was only though that slip that we realized he married Margaret - after the book concluded.  It kind of makes you want a sequel.

Maureen read that Strout based this book on a true story, but in reality the young man had committed suicide.  Zach was such a lonely and haunted boy, deeply dependent on his mom and without friends. We were all on pins and needles, thinking that was the end that Zach was headed for.  Kareen questioned how he was able to spontaneously make Visa and international flight arrangements.

Susan's recognition that she had become her mother and turned her children and husband Steve into herself seemed like a miracle of self awareness, not something many adults are capable of.  Mary reminded us of the agonizing hours that Susan spent alone, terrified that Zach was dead.  She had plenty of time for introspection.

Kareen thought Strout tied up things a little too quickly in the conclusion, Zachary was home looking good and talkative.  Thanks to Jim's revelation, Bob was no longer his old doormat self, his "Bobness" and Susan was talking opening to Mrs Drinkwater and blossoming.  Which left the question - who were the mother and daughter from the prologue?  Was it one of Mrs Drinkwater's daughters who wrote it?