Empire Falls by Richard Russo
You guys. This book. It was the weirdest mixed bag of WTFery and blah and intrigue that I’ve read in a long time. It was deeply confusing to read, and I experienced a lot of conflicting emotions (anger, boredom, anger, fear, bemusement) while reading. Let’s dig in, shall we?
Miles Roby is a good ole American guy in the working class of Empire Falls, a Massachusetts hamlet that has seen its industries fading away until only the town stalwarts are left. Miles runs the Empire Grill, a greasy spoon that was supposed to be promised him by the town matriarch, Francine Whiting, as compensation for leaving college before finishing his degree. Obviously, he does not get the Grill. Miles is also impotent, self-conscious, and infatuated with Charlene, a waitress at the restaurant. Basically, you can play white man bingo and hit all the marks with Miles. His almost-ex-wife Janine has just discovered her orgasm with another man and is definitely interested in a divorce. His daughter Tick (derived from Christina, because apparently Russo thought Tina was too basic a nickname…?) is a sensitive artist who is on the outs of her high school’s inner circle. Add to this several rumblings of discontent and you have a rather shocking conflict at the end.
This was a genuinely interesting story, but Russo has no clue about female sexuality. I mean, the way Janine rhapsodizes about finding her orgasm at 42? And her G-Spot? And talking continually about her G-Spot? WE GET IT, RUSSO. Janine Roby has a G-Spot.
Apparently, Richard Russo consulted old issues of Cosmopolitan before writing those sections. Sigh.