Empire Falls
by Richard Russo

empire fallsIn a small blue-collar Maine town that has seen better days, the manager of the Empire Grill tries to make a go of it.

Opening paragraph:  The Empire Grill was long and low-slung, with windows that ran its entire length, and since the building next door, a Rexall drugstore, had been condemned and razed it was now possible to sit at the lunch counter and see straight down Empire Avenue all the way to the old textile mill and its adjacent shirt factory.  Both had been abandoned now for the better part of two decades, though their dark, looming shapes at the foot of the avenue’s gentle incline continued to draw the eye.  Of course, nothing prevented a person from looking up Empire Avenue in the other direction, but Miles Roby, the proprietor of the restaurant—and its eventual owner, he hoped—had long noted that his customers rarely did.

Quotes from critics: “Russo is preoccupied with the death of a certain version of the American dream, but his belief in the power of comedy—sometimes low, sometimes high—rescues his work from pathos and elevated it into the realm of literature.” (The New Yorker); “A warmhearted novel of sweeping scope . . . Russo . . . shows an unerring sense of the rhythms of small-town life, balancing his irreverent, mocking humor with unending empathy for his characters and their foibles.” (Booklist); “When it comes to evoking the cherished hopes and dreams of ordinary people, Russo is unsurpassed.” (Publishers Weekly).

Bio:  Richard Russo (1949- ) is an American novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and teacher.  He is a retired professor of literature at Colby College who now lives and writes in Camden, Maine.

Award:  The Pulitzer prize