26 January 2022

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen is my favourite living author and anytime he puts out a new book it's worth celebrating. I literally got into a fight with my boyfriend because I felt he rushed me in the bookstore when I went to purchase Crossroads and that it "ruined an experience I waited six years for." This was also an exciting release because it is apparently the first book in a trilogy! This was at odds with Franzen previously saying he doesn't believe he has many other 500-paged books left in him. He is referring to the trilogy as "A Key to All Mythologies." I learned this title is an inside joke with his current girlfriend and her ex-husband.

One thing you can always rely on with Franzen is that the book is going to be long - something I love. Crossroads is just under 600 pages and follows Franzen's similar generational setup. This time he is writing about the Hildebrandt family, specifically the mother and father, and their three oldest children. The only perspective we don't get in this book is the youngest child's, though I suspect that will come in later books.

It was strange that self-pity wasn't on the list of deadly sins; none was deadlier." 

The entire family is extremely unlikable, which is a characteristic of all of Franzen's stories. The father is a pastor at the local church but I would primarily describe him as conniving and weasel-y. The mom is abrasive and disturbing. She gets most of the character backstory which she lays out during a therapy session. I enjoyed this section a lot because I find it's what Franzen is so good at - demonstrating why people act the way they do. The three children each have their own annoying qualities, but setting them up made me excited to see how they age and where they go from the end point of Crossroads

Jonathan Franzen

This book was marketed as a story of a pastor who is losing his faith and considering ending his marriage. Obviously this grabbed my attention, but I would say there's a lot less focus on Russ reckoning with his faith - which was something that sort of disappointed me. I was so into season two of Fleabag and Midnight Mass and all the religious components involved in these shows, so was actually looking for more of the same in a way. 

According to Scripture, earthly life was but a moment, but the moment seemed spacious when he was with her." 

My favourite character in the book was the youngest son Perry who sells drugs and emotionally manipulates his peers at the church's youth group. I found him so funny and sinister, and that Franzen's skills really came out while writing him. 

But my favourite concept discussed in the book was probably the oldest son's (Clem) moral confusion about the Vietnam war and getting out of the draft after enrolling in college. Early on in the book he decides he should drop out of college after being unable to complete an intro lit paper. He writes a letter informing the draft board and breaks up with his girlfriend. There's not a lot of time spent on this topic, but I'm curious to see if Franzen returns to it in the later books. His idealistic characters are usually torn down pretty quickly.

You wouldn't believe how quickly the most interesting person in the world can turn into the most boring person you'll ever meet." 

If I am being completely honest with myself, I would say this was potentially my least favourite Franzen book. I have read The Corrections and Freedom more than once, and I think this would be his only book I wouldn't consider re-reading. A big factor in how I evaluate books/movies is on rewatch /re-readability and this wouldn't be one I would want to recommit to. This 100% doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading it or that I'm not looking forward to the follow ups. 

Also, Brock, if you are reading this. I miss you!!

No comments:

Post a Comment