NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW Notable Book
“So funny, so sage and above all so incandescently intelligent” (The Chicago Tribune), the New York Times bestseller Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder, a daring and penetrating book from “the most intelligent novelist of [his] generation” (The New Republic), Jonathan Franzen
Young Pip Tyler doesn't know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she's saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she's squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother--her only family--is hazardous. But she doesn't have a clue who her father is, why her mother chose to live as a recluse with an invented name, or how she'll ever have a normal life.
Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organization that traffics in all the secrets of the world--including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn't understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.
Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters--Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers--and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Jonathan Franzen has a knack for writing about psychological dysfunction and stirring up controversy with his cutting portraits of contemporary America. Purity fits the bill of a Franzen novel—a big, bold takedown of the global finance machine, gender dynamics, Internet crusaders, and more. But in Purity “Pip” Tyler, the American author has also created a flawed young heroine who’s surprisingly likable. Staring down life in an Oakland squat house, a demeaning job with an unscrupulous renewable energy company, and her tortured relationship with her hippie mom, Pip decides to embark on an overseas adventure that might help her find her father and erase $130,000 in student debt. We got completely wrapped up in this modern epic, which is filled with intelligent, funny insights about the challenges of finding your inner truth in an exceptionally noisy age.
Secrets are power, and power corrupts even the most idealistic in Franzen's (Freedom) exhaustive bildungsroman. Two years out of college, self-conscious, acerbic Purity "Pip" Tyler is saddled with crushing student loans and an overbearing, emotionally disturbed mother who refuses to reveal the identity of Pip's father. Living in Oakland, Calif., Pip meets and confides in beautiful German activist Annagret, who calls on her former boyfriend, Andreas Wolf, to give Pip an internship working with Wolf's cultish Sunlight Project, a WikiLeaks-like operation based in Bolivia. Once there, Pip is both flattered by and suspicious of the attention she receives from the magnetic Wolf; when she returns to America to do his bidding in secret, she becomes increasingly attached to people he may want to hurt. Pip strives to retain her integrity, but the world in which she is coming of age is, in Franzen's view, sick, its people born only to suffer and harm. Mining the connection between Pip and Wolf, Franzen renders half a dozen characters over the course of six decades, via extensive origin stories that plumb their psychological corners. Franzen succeeds more than he fails, but the failures are damning. At first, the mercurial, angry Pip and the arrogant, abrasive Wolf seem drawn to actively challenge the reader's sympathies. Then there are the novel's fathers, who are almost all abusive or absent, and its mothers, who are disturbed, cruel, or dumb. Gradually, it becomes clear that Franzen's greatest strength is his extensive, intricate narrative web which includes a murder in Berlin, stolen nukes in Amarillo, and a billion-dollar trust. Though the novel lacks resonance, its pieces fit together with stunning craftsmanship.
Franzen is a masterful author and he tells an engrossing story with many layers and surprises. At times I thought that the plot became subordinate to the various themes - clearly that was his desire, and as I entered the last 100 pages, I came to accept and embrace his narrative on his terms.
I thought the ending was satisfying and it left me hopeful for the central characters - I hate it when a really good, long read ends with a "poof" - this book did not disappoint.
Loved it. It just got me through a week of being “sheltered in place” during the Covid 19 pandemic. It was Iike a movie I couldn’t wait to get back to. I was raised in the SF East Bay and have lived in Santa Cruz for many years so I enjoyed all the local references. Absorbing and distracting which is just what I needed. Mr. Franzen continues to be one of my favorite writers.
Book is not downloadable
Can't download it to my iPad (latest IOS).
Two years later: same problem. No help from Apple Tech Support.