I’ve been reading Empire Falls by Richard Russo.
Empire Falls is a novel about a small community living in a small town, where people from all social categories and from all ages meet, interact, enjoy and suffer all the possibilities of life. All of the characters are experiencing regret, in a greater or smaller manner, and not trying to help each other.
The main character, Miles Roby, is in charge of a restaurant after missing the opportunity to achieve a better standard by doing a university degree, and tries to live his life in a better way after failing most of the occasions in his life: marriage, enrichment, joy. His wife leaves him for another man, one who can satisfy her sexual needs, and her needs of feeling herself more woman. Miles always lives with the hope that one day he will get the restaurant from Mrs. Whiting, the most rich and influential person in town, the one who owns most of the city business. Miles’ all life love, Charlene, a waitress at his restaurant, never wanted to be more than friends. Miles is in a perpetual search for balance and happiness, and his only achievement is his daughter, Tick.
Miles’ brother , David, is a former alcoholic and drug addict that passed through an unfortunate car accident that let him crippled. He manages to have a relationship with Charlene, but except that, David is a lonely and unhappy person.
Max Roby , Miles’ and David’s father, is a childish old man, who is only interested in vacations, resorts, money and drinking. He did not interfere too much with his children’s life, and abandoned his wife, Grace, when she mostly needed him.
Janine Roby is the Miles’ wife, and future to be married with another man. She is full of regret, having lived a life without spice together with Miles, doing only work and being overweight. Her new husband discovers her sexual pleasures and teaches her how to exercise and feel happy about herself. However this destroys her relationship with both Miles and her daughter Tick.
Mrs. Whiting is the main businesswoman in town, a lady full of anguish and stubbornness, a model of a cold woman, but very hidden, rascal and mischievous. She fails to keep her husband by her side, husband who commits suicide, being unable to bear with her, and being unable to be free and have a relationship with his real lovers. She is cold enough to not even care about her daughter, Cindy, who is crippled by a car accident.
Tick Roby is an interesting teenager, eager to help, but too much introvert, she falls for a boy she met in the summer, and didn’t meet him again. She has a life full of problems in a high school where boys and friendship mean too much for a normal life to take place.
Grace Roby is Miles’ mother, who passed away few years back, but alive in Miles’ memory. He recalls a meeting between his mother and a mysterious Charlie Mayne, who proves to be Mr. Whiting. Miles later realizes that her affair with Mr. Whiting was a good reason why Mrs. Whiting was treating him in the way he did, and why Mr. Whiting committed suicide.
Miles tries to make the best for his family, especially his daughter, and tries to cope with the situation, Cindy Whiting is in love with him, but he refuses her, Tick is getting more lonely with each passing day, and the ghost of his mother is chasing him. He tries to make a partnership with his mother-in-law, Janine’s mother to make a new restaurant, but Mrs. Whiting denies him this possibility also. He is working together with his brother while his ex-wife is preparing to get married again. Miles is a model of patience, kindness, and acceptance of faith.
Tick’s strange school mate, John Voss, is attacking her class with a gun , killing a few of them, which is a capital point in the novel. All the characters have frustrations, and the rampage of one kid is basically blowing everything up, changing everyone’s life. Miles runs away with Tick, being unable to live there anymore, the restaurant closes, Mrs Whiting commits suicide. Not even his ex-wife can last long with her new husband, getting back the weight she dropped and returning to her old life, this time alone.
Empire Falls is a novel about trying, about coping with the past, about life, in all it’s aspects, about a better future, which may or may not be achievable, and about realizing how happy things that we already have can make us.