HBR listed this novel as one of the year's best business books. This well-wrought novel offers some quietly fine writing, and Russo paints the decaying Maine town of Empire Falls with a compassionate sensitivity of which Proulx might justly be jealous. But a handful of realistically-considered paragraphs about the business of diners and bars hardly make this a business novel.

The absence of realistic business life from current literature is remarkable. Babbit and Death of a Salesman cast a long shadow, but both are now relics of a distant era. Glengarry Glenn Ross is a fine play and a wonderful portrait of desperation in the sales department, but it, too, is a story of a passing generation. We visit the groves of academe and the writer's lonely study all the time, but we seem rarely to drop into the conference room or the cubicle, and when we do it's rarely to think about the work people do or the way they feel about it.