Friday, October 26, 2012

The Corrections-Jonathan Franzen

The Corrections-Jonathan Franzen

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 653
gender: M
nationality: USA
year: 2001

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man-or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

This is really a brick of a book-clocking in at 650 pages, it can get a little hard to get through sometimes. Part of that difficulty is that sometimes you feel like the characters are pretty unlikeable embittered upper middle class white people and why should you care? So I assure you, this is a book of anti-heroes.

I kept reading on though because this is one solidly constructed novel. Instead of jumping from one member of the family to one another, he instead focuses on each one. The pacing is well-done and the prose is smooth and precise. There's no real plot to be frank, the theme is really just about attempts to make things right, even if you fail at it. So each character makes all kinds of mistakes and fails to correct them and sometimes actually succeeds at fixing some and that allows the prose to just sprawl all over these people's lives which are more of profiles of these people rather than stories. The sprawl means that stereotypes get trotted out (mostly about Mid Westerners). Despite this I grew to actually care about the characters. Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome but the more time spent with each character the more I cared about whether they'd be able to recover from their disastrous situations or not.

I guess the real lesson of the book is that life happens and if you're going to correct things-you better be actively participating in it.

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