Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Crossroads

CrossroadsCrossroads by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Crossroads is the beginning of a trilogy from Jonathan Franzen, a detailed exploration of the life of a Midwest pastor, his wife and their four kids. With the exception of the nine-year-old, each member is pretty screwed up and the author chapter by chapter describes their failings, history and sorry denouements. There was considerable religious commentary not unusual in a pastor's story, but which left me in the dark. The plot jostles along, but nothing about the writing made me sit up or read aloud to my reading companion. I noted "lambent" as a favorite adjective among others. There is one of the best descriptions of speed-induced mental derailment I've read. But though I read compulsively, surely someone will notice and help these characters, I did not love this novel as much as I did his first book, The Corrections.

But don't mind me. Here's one of my favorite reviewers, Ron Charles of the Washington Post, reviewing this book last October: "The result is a story of spiritual crises with a narrative range more expansive than Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead novels, which can sometimes feel liturgical in their arcane ruminations. Franzen is working closer to the practical theology and moral realism of John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” and “In the Beauty of the Lilies.” Grasping at reeds of grace and selfishness, the Hildebrandts demonstrate in the most poignant way how mortals stumble through life freighted with ideals that simultaneously mock and inspire them."

My philosophy gaps are showing.

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