Russo takes this story several generations deep, painting the small town of Empire Falls in layers that include everything from the town's prosperous industrial days to its present diminishing state, after the sale of the local textile mill left most residents out of work. Each character seems to stand in for a whole family, one generation building upon the next, so that the effect is of a town creating its residents, rather than the residents creating the town.
What I admired most about EMPIRE FALLS was the way Russo wove several subplots together, never over-stressing one at the expense of another. He manipulated ordinary events in a way that didn't attempt to shed to light on them so much as make them feel right. I felt every second like he'd never lost sight of the climax, and, as the story rode toward it, it seemed as though the story was working itself toward a resolution.