Located 50 miles inland from the sea, Empire Falls is a small town in Maine on the Knox River. The Whiting's are the wealthiest and most powerful family in town with a traditional family mansion downtown. Surround the mansion are the industries they have spawned over the generations. Charles Beaumont Whiting, son and heir apparent to the Whiting fortune, returned from 10 years in Mexico where he was pursuing empty dreams as an untalented artist and poet, as well as having a good time chasing women and lying on the beach. When he returns to Empire Falls, he is in his late twenties. Charles grows into middle age through the course of the Prologue. Charles is reconciled to his destiny, which is to carry on in the family tradition of running the family industries, although he believes he left his "better self" in Mexico. Chapter 1
1.Move forward in time to the present. Empire Falls is in an economic tailspin. All the Whiting factories are closed and boarded up. C.B. is not around. Francine-apparently the last remaining descendent of both the Whiting family she married into and her native Robideaux clan-is nearing the end of her life. The citizens of Empire Falls eagerly anticipate this event since it is not clear to whom she will leave the vast holdings of the Whiting family. Essentially, the citizens are waiting to see who will inherit their town. A number of colorful and apparently central characters emerge in this chapter and the Empire Grill becomes the venue-of-choice for local gossip and debate. Miles Roby, the proprietor, assumes the role as a somewhat less-than-naïve observer and much of the action is viewed through his eyes. Miles has been working at the Empire since he was 16. Chapter 2
2.Father Mark interrupts Miles as he is contemplating the steeple of St. Catherine's Catholic Church. Miles has agreed to paint the church to save money for the parish. Remembering how he loved to climb as a boy, miles is now terrified of heights. Father Mark invites him to cookies and coffee in "The Rectum," their private name for the rectory, which grew out of Miles' boyhood confusion of the two words. Miles recalls that he had seriously considered becoming a priest in high school and still sometimes wonders if he should have done that rather than wed himself to the Empire Grill. Miles and Father Mark discuss Miles' recent vacation at Martha's Vineyard with Tick and his all-but-final divorce from his wife, Janine. Miles tells the priest that while at the Vineyard, Tick went to mass with him most mornings which they considered a good sign for the self-proclaimed, Chapter 3
3.Meet Janine Roby, Miles' soon-to-be-ex-wife and soon-to-be Mrs. Silver Fox. She is a woman with a robust libido who did not discover it until she started cheating on her husband. The Silver Fox showed her what an orgasm is and found her "secret spot," as she calls it. Janine is now lugging around a huge resentment for Miles who never, in all those years, showed her how to come. Janine is already becoming irritated by some of her future husband's habits-such as guessing her weight in public and stenciling The Silver Fox on his SUV-but is resolved to correct those issues as soon as she becomes half owner of the SUV and sole owner of its owner. Janine is convinced that her mother died without ever experiencing the joys of climax-that she "went before she came"-and is considering replacing the Silver Fox stencil with one that says, "I came before... Chapter 4
4.Tick is in art class at Empire Falls High. Mrs. Roderigue, her art teacher, is a very structured woman believing, apparently, that creativity flows from regimented order. Mrs. Roderique assigns students to various worktables distinguished by the names of colors. There are no actual representative colors at the tables, but students are expected to remember which table has been named Blue, which one Red, etc. Candace Burke, a complete airhead, is Tick's neighbor at the Blue...