NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The highly anticipated new novel from one of our greatest living writers.
It's December 23, 1971, and the Hildebrandt family is at a crossroads. The patriarch, Russ, the associate pastor of a suburban Chicago church, is poised to break free of a marriage he finds joyless--unless his brilliant and unstable wife, Marion, breaks free of it first. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college afire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem's sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has veered into the era's counterculture, while their younger brother Perry, fed up with selling pot to support his drug habit, has firmly resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.
Universally recognized as the leading novelist of his generation, Jonathan Franzen is often described as a teller of family stories. Only now, though, in Crossroads, has he given us a novel in which a family, in all the intricacy of its workings, is truly at the centre.
By turns comic and harrowing, a tour-de-force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, Crossroads is the first volume of a trilogy, A Key to All Mythologies, that will span three generations and trace the inner life of our culture through the present day. Complete in itself, set in a historical moment of moral crisis, and reaching back to the early twentieth century, Crossroads serves as a foundation for a sweeping investigation of human mythologies, as the Hildebrandt family navigates the political, intellectual and social crosscurrents of the past fifty years.
Jonathan Franzen's gift for wedding depth and vividness of character with breadth of social vision has never been more dazzlingly evident than in Crossroads.
Franzen (Purity) returns with a sweeping and masterly examination of the shifting culture of early 1970s America, the first in a trilogy. The action is centered on the small Illinois town of New Prospect, where the each of the Hildebrandts is experiencing a sea change. The father, Russ, is an associate minister at First Reformed Church and has developed an illicit attraction to a new parishioner, the widow Frances Cottrell, whose zest for life makes Russ feel a renewed sense of his "edge." Russ is also embroiled in a yearslong feud with Rick Ambrose, who runs the church's youth organization, Crossroads. Clem, Russ's oldest son, is at college and having a sexual awakening with his girlfriend, Sharon, who pleads with him not to drop out and lose his deferment ("I'm going to do whatever they want me to do, which probably means Vietnam," he says, referencing his low lottery number). Becky, Clem's younger sister, inherits a large sum of money from an aunt and isn't sure if she should share it with her brothers, especially Perry, the youngest, who is brilliant but cold and self-medicates with weed and 'ludes. All of the characters' sections are convincingly rendered, and perhaps best of all are those narrated by Russ's wife, Marion, who had a psychotic breakdown 30 years earlier that she is just starting to come to terms with. As complications stack up for the Hildebrandts, they each confront temptation and epiphany, failure and love. Throughout, Franzen exhibits his remarkable ability to build suspense through fraught interpersonal dynamics. It's irresistible.
Laughter & Tears
I believe John Irving once said of Great Expectations “Great Expectations is the first novel I read that made me wish I had written it; it is the novel that made me want to be a novelist — specifically, to move a reader as I was moved then. I believe that Great Expectations has the most wonderful and most perfectly worked-out plot for a novel in the English language; at the same time, it never deviates from its intention to move you to laughter and to tears.
Well I think that Crossroads does the same thing - it moves you from laughter to tears. This is the first Jonathan Franzen novel I have read and I am thrilled to find a new author that I can dive into.