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Empire Falls

About the Book

Empire Falls

Dominated by the Whiting family, the founders of the three mills that provided employment for most of the town's residents, Empire Falls finds itself in sharp decline at the turn of the twenty-first century. Its mills are closed, stores are boarded up, and its population is dwindling. The families that remain live on memories of the past and the shared fantasy that the mills will reopen and the once-thriving town will experience a renaissance. However, the formidable Mrs. Whiting, widow of the last Whiting son (and rumored to be the richest woman in central Maine), makes no concessions to the community's needs or fantasies. As the owner of the few viable businesses left in Empire Falls and a dependable, if begrudging, source of funds for essential town improvements, Mrs. Whiting wields her power over the town and its inhabitants with an iron will.

Miles Roby was once known around town as a young man smart enough to escape Empire Falls. A devoted son, he put his dreams on hold when his mother's illness interrupted his last year of college. Twenty years later, Miles is the proprietor of Mrs. Whiting's just barely profitable Empire Grill, the soon-to-be ex-husband of Janine (who has left him for the slick owner of the flashy new health club), and the proud father of Tick, a bright, loving teenager. Seduced by Mrs. Whiting's promise to bequeath him the restaurant, Miles stoically submits to her arbitrary, often humiliating demands—until the accidental discovery of a family secret shocks him into a troubling reevaluation of his life and the small town that shaped it. Nothing, however, prepares him for the horrific event that ultimately sets him free.

As he exposes the betrayals and self-deceptions, false hopes and genuine desires that motivate his quirky cast of characters, Richard Russo transforms the story of one town into an unforgettable exploration of the human condition. By turns funny, poignant, satiric, and shocking, Empire Falls captures humanity at its best and its worst.

Empire Falls
by Richard Russo

  • Publication Date: April 12, 2002
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0375726403
  • ISBN-13: 9780375726408