Empire Falls follows the story of Miles Roby, a small-town, blue collar man who feels stuck in his life. He's been running the grill downtown for twenty years under the oppressive thumb of the town matriarch, his divorce proceedings are progressing at a teeth-gnashingly slow rate, something that is not helped by his estranged wife's fiance hanging out at the lunch counter every day, challenging him to arm wrestling contests, and his daughter is a teenager, a statement that needs no further explanation.
I read a review of this novel that compared Russo's writing to a slow boil, and that's exactly what it is. I put this book down several times - it lags in places, and I grew a little bored waiting for something to happen, but after a few days, I'd pick it up again, and literally devour another seventy-five or a hundred pages. It pulls in hundreds of threads, and weaves them together in a way you don't always see coming. The characters are flawed, exquisite, sad, conflicted, ugly, but always, they are very, very human.
In other words, Russo's book is very much like real life.