You have a family

The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout’s new book, is about Jim and Bob Burgess and their sister Susan. It’s about all families and how complicated they can be.

“What am I going to do, Bob? I have no family,” Jim says.

“You have a family,” Bob says. “You have a wife who hates you. Kids who are furious with you. A brother and a sister who make you insane. And a nephew who used to be kind of a drip but apparently is not so much of a drip now. That’s called a family.”

When I heard Strout speak recently at Arts & Letters Live in Dallas, she was introduced by Skip Hollandsworth, executive editor of Texas Monthly. Strout writes about “human endurance in the day-to-day struggle of life,” he said. “She understands that life can be lonely and unfair.”

“I don’t know where people get the idea that life is easy,” Strout told the audience.

And, yes, she agreed, not all of her characters are the most likeable people. “I don’t judge them,” she said. “They’re just people.”

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