I ordered this book based on Amazon's recommendation believing it to be a scifi novel involving the fall of some galactic empire. Little did I know how wrong I was. Empire Falls is a place in Maine and the novel is a modern day story about everyday people with everyday problems. I decided to give the book a chance and was very glad that I did.
The book focuses on Miles Robey, the proprietor a one of Empire Falls few restaurants. Miles is a nice guy that throughout his life tried to please everybody. As a result he "wasted" a college education and kept a job running a losing business. He also married a woman (who never made an effort to improve her relationship with him) who only cared about looking good and impressing other people. Miles married her to avoid a romantic involvement with a crippled rich girl who was infatuated with him.
We meet several other interesting characters such as Miles daughter Tick (she reminds me a lot of Lisa from the Simpsons). Tick is kind of an outcast in school, possibly because she is smart beyond her years.
Then there is the mysterious Mrs. Whitting who owns half the town, and also Miles' restaurant. Miles makes the observation that Mrs. Whitting seems to sell parts of her holdings always at the right time. It seems to be Miles' fear of failure that prevents him from confronting her on obtaining a liquor license even though it would increase the business tremendously.
Miles' deceased mother was someone that had a good heart and a bad marriage. She had great plans for Miles to make a better life for himself by getting out of the town. She dies young from cancer and with her presence gone, Miles never a risk taker decides to continue to work at the restaurant rather than get out of the town to make a life for himself. Miles loves a waitress at the restaurant, who he has fawned over all his life. However, he marries a woman that nobody seemed to be interested in because he was afraid of pursuing the woman he really wanted and failing.
We have Miles' obnoxious father who is basically a freeloader who only looks out for himself. Then there is David who seems to be the only person in the book that thinks with some sense.
Empire Falls was a thriving town until the shifting economy caused the main factories to close. The characters are basically, so ingrained in the town that no matter how bad things get you know they will always stay.
I am sure we all know many people with the same characteristics as these people and quite possibly we hold many of these characteristics ourselves. That is what makes this book a very compelling read.
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