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‘His best novel yet … A Middlemarch-like triumph’ Telegraph
‘A pleasure bomb of a novel’ Vogue
‘A true modern master’ Independent
It’s 23 December 1971, and the Hildebrandts are at a crossroads. Fifteen-year-old Perry has resolved to be a better person and quit dealing drugs to seventh graders. His sister Becky, the once straight-laced high school social queen, has veered into counterculture, while at college, Clem is wrestling with a decision that might tear his family apart. As their parents – Russ, a suburban pastor, and Marion, his restless wife – tug against the bonds of a joyless marriage, Crossroads finds a family, and a nation, struggling to do the right thing.
‘Funny, moving, crackling with life, it has what all great fiction should have’ Financial Times
‘Intoxicating – a luxuriant domestic drama’ Guardian
THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A GUARDIAN BEST FICTION BOOK OF 2021 • AN INDEPENDENT BOOK OF THE YEAR • A WHITE REVIEW BOOK OF THE YEAR • A LIT HUB BOOK OF THE YEAR
‘[Franzen’s] talents as a comic storyteller are such that his capacious tales are a treat to get lost in. This one is no exception … This is a novel whose momentum often derives from the altered states of its characters — obsession; intoxication; lust; religious fervour; mania — and the humour is usually of the painful variety as their lives uniformly crumble and they agonise over how — or indeed whether — to be good’ Daily Mail
‘[A] pleasure bomb of a novel … Few [writers] can take human contradiction and make it half as entertaining and intimate as Franzen does … A magnificent portrait of an American family on the brink’ Vogue
‘In Crossroads, Jonathan Franzen goes back to family-anatomising basics – and it's his best novel yet … The result is a Middlemarch-like triumph’ Telegraph
‘Franzen has laid the ground beautifully, and his first act is intoxicating – a luxuriant domestic drama that opens out into politics, running against the grain of the counterculture with its focus on the friction between conservatism and radicalism, Christianity and social activism’ Guardian
‘Crossroads is classic Franzen fodder: a slice of suburban life ripe not for satire but for the far deadlier scrutiny that comes from taking it seriously’ New Yorker
‘A mellow, marzipan-hued ’70s-era heartbreaker. Crossroads is warmer than anything [Franzen has] yet written, wider in its human sympathies, weightier of image and intellect’ New York Times Book Review
‘The compelling dialogue, the authenticity of place, time and character, the assured insights and the exquisite minutiae of description, all confirm that the reader is in the hands of a true modern master … a simply stunning novel’ iNews
‘A firecracker’ Irish Times
‘A mesmerising tale … he writes sentences that are as addictive as opioids’ Herald
About the author
Jonathan Franzen is the author of five novels, including The Corrections, Freedom, and Purity, and six works of nonfiction, most recentlyWhat If We Stopped Pretending? and The End of the End of the Earth. He lives in Santa Cruz, California.
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.