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Extended Audio Sample Empire Falls, by Richard Russo Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (52,408 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Russo Narrator: Ron McLarty Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Dexter County, Maine, and specifically the town of Empire Falls, has seen better days, and for decades, in fact, only a succession from bad to worse. One by one, its logging and textile enterprises have gone belly-up, and the once vast holdings of the Whiting clan, presided over by the last scion’s widow, now mostly amount to decrepit real estate. The working classes, meanwhile, continue to eke out whatever meager promise isn’t already boarded up.

Miles Roby gazes over this ruined kingdom from the Empire Grill, an opportunity of his youth that has become the albatross of his daily and future life. Called back from college and set to work by family obligations—his mother ailing, his father a loose cannon—Miles never left home again. Even so, his own obligations are manifold: a pending divorce, a troubled younger brother, and, not least, a peculiar partnership in the failing grill with none other than Mrs. Whiting. All of these, though, are offset by his daughter, Tick, whom he guides gently and proudly through the tribulations of adolescence.

A decent man encircled by history and dreams, by echoing churches and abandoned mills, by the comforts and feuds provided by lifelong friends and neighbors, Miles is also a patient, knowing guide to the rich, hardscrabble nature of Empire Falls: fathers and sons and daughters, living and dead, rich and poor alike.

Shot through with the mysteries of generations and the shattering visitations of the nation at large, Empire Falls is a social novel of panoramic ambition, yet at the same time achingly personal. In the end, the book reveals our worst and best instincts, both our most appalling nightmares and our simplest hopes, with all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A rich, humorous, elegantly constructed novel rooted in the bedrock traditions of American fiction. This is easily Russo’s most seductive book thus far.”

    New York Times

  • In a warmhearted novel of sweeping scope.... Russo follows up his rollicking academic satire, Straight Man (1997), with a return to the blue-collar melieu featured in his first three novels and once again shows an unerring sense of the rhythms of small-town life, balancing his irreverent, mocking humor with unending empathy for his characters and their foibles Booklist
  • “Russo writes with a warm, vibrant humanity…A stirring mix of poignancy, drama, and comedy.”

    Washington Post

  • “Not one wrong note…Russo demonstrates a stunning ability for nailing the essentials of character and atmosphere.”


  • “Russo’s most assured novel yet…Empire Falls makes you wish you’d stayed in that small town you grew up in.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Immensely satisfying…[Russo is] an unpretentious master of fictional technique whose deeper wisdom expresses itself in the distinctive fallibility, decency, humor, and grace of the indisputably, irresistibly real people he [creates].”

    Boston Globe

  • “The history of American literature may show that Richard Russo wrote the last great novel of the twentieth century.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Nobody does small-town life better than Richard Russo.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • “Engaging…Russo’s unique talent is his way of yoking wry humor to serious sadness, and rollicking entertainment to social commentary.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • Empire Falls, an irreverent but touching depiction of a small New England town on the brink of extinction, is competently read by McLarty, who brings out the warmth and depth of the engaging plot through colorful characterizations and an ironic tone.”

    Booklist (starred audio review)

  • “In a warmhearted novel of sweeping scope…Russo follows up his rollicking academic satire, Straight Man, with a return to the blue-collar milieu featured in his first three novels and once again shows an unerring sense of the rhythms of small-town life, balancing his irreverent, mocking humor with unending empathy for his characters and their foibles.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  • A 2001 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Fiction
  • Winner of the 2002 Ambassador Book Award for Fiction
  • Winner of Pulitzer Prize (Fiction), 2002

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Abs | 2/20/2014

    " What a great book. I didn't know where the book was going at first, but it was it was full of more suspense than I thought it would be. I really enjoyed it. It had some depressing parts, but those just made the book seem more realistic. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Megan | 2/2/2014

    " Pulitzer prize winning novel - well written, compelling characters, great story. For my friends, too much language and a couple of times just gross. I don't know why character development has to include things that make you say "ew gross!" "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Rosemary | 1/14/2014

    " Great character development and engaging narrative spoiled by the dozens of improbable events jam-packed into the last 30 pages of the book. Russo should have consulted with his wife to ask how she pulled off a contrived ending so beautifully in The Blind Assassin. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Andrea | 1/2/2014

    " Miles Roby is living out a kind of modern-day, self-imposed, indentured servitude in his hometown of Empire Falls - running the Empire Grill and continually deferring to its harsh, dynastic but owner: Mrs. Francine Whiting. She rules from her opulent estate in town, concealing her crippled daughter's past and detaching herself from Cindy's many personal issues, and playing on Miles penchant for acting in kindness over what is good for his own welfare. Also, Roby's wife has left him for a regular customer a the Grill - and Miles endures this patron's continued arrogant ribbing. The one bright spot in his life is his daughter Tick - who is dealing with her own vulnerabilities. She faces the impending disaster with admirable bravery, as does Miles. "

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