Empire Falls is a deserted Maine town…at least, it’s largely deserted. Those who remain engage in intertwining stories, the likes of which big city folk might not understand. The blue collar town’s remnants provide a depressing landscape in Richard Russo’s fictional tale which, unfortunately, tells the true tale of many small old factory towns. Russo, a resident of Maine, must have studied the area with precision and perhaps does away with the stereotype of Maine: a comfortable getaway suitable for people desiring solitude.
Mrs. Whiting is the upper hand in Empire Falls, the comatose town. Her, along with her demonic cat, Timmy, wreak all sorts of havoc, but before her hard lessons is the mask of financial assistance, something which, unlike relatability, she has plenty to offer. Like large banks, Whiting isn’t spitting money out to those in need, not unless she’s being compensated in other ways, that is.
Dysfunctional families, however unfortunate, exist. In Empire Falls, they rule. There is no mention of a family which comfortably exists. When jobs leave, so do values, but given Russo’s hearty back-story telling, one begins to wonder if values were ever a concern in this town, full of despair.
Empire Falls works on a number of levels – two to be exact. The story is a great speaker for small town familiarity – the kinds of places that have diners that double as retirement communities. Empire Falls is also relatable to every person who reads it because outsourcing is at its center, and how many people know someone who has been negatively affected by such a practice? Read Empire Falls if you feel you’ve been screwed over by a place to which you’ve been loyal.