Set around the framework of a mother's wish to bring her fractured family together for one last Christmas before her husband loses his final ounce of dignity and sanity to Parkinson's disease, Franzen's razor-sharp "The Corrections" is an American masterwork. What Franzen has accomplished is truly staggering; savaging contemporary American life and values with fearless abandon, yet doing it all with scalpel-edge precision.
Beyond and beneath the prim cultivated life that matriarch Enid has imagined for her family lies a rotted and diseased root structure born in 3 childhoods littered with off-kilter moments- glimpses of which are doled out periodically by Franzen- as each of the now adult children's- and their parent's - lives play out over the course of the novel. Those early malfunctions and injustices perhaps, we imagine, were seedlings that sprouted chutes inch by inch later in life as we learn more and more of the hidden but omnipresent dark dysfunction in children Gary, Chip and Denise's respective worlds. Perhaps deep down, despite appearances to the contrary and near pathologically concerted efforts to keep up those appearances, Enid does possess some inherent awareness of the damage done as she progressively places more and more significance on achieving one, final, family get together.
There are no shortage of horror novels available- Stephen King is highly prolific after all- yet for my money, there are moments in which Franzen's unblinking portraits of contemporary, American, familial dysfunction are some of the most terrifying reading imaginable. Although I count this as an all time favorite novel, there were, after all, moments- conversations actually- between Gary, his wife and their children- power plays, manipulations and inter-spousal character assassinations- that made it wretchedly unpleasant to read on. Franzen's prose itself is, indeed, razor sharp and crackles and slices with a keenness rarely realized.
If clarity of vision and a fully realized achievement of that vision is the watermark of artistic brilliance, this is one of the brightest gems of the past 10 years. To read this novel and subsequently revisit the opening paragraph is to be dazzled by that brilliance. A National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist and absolute must-read.— Jon Fine
#1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER
“A spellbinding novel” (People) from the New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Franzen, the author of Crossroads, The Corrections is a comic, tragic epic of worlds colliding: an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions, a new world of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental health care, and globalized greed.
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 that, despite certain alarming indicators, 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.
“You will laugh, wince, groan, weep, leave the table and maybe the country, promise never to go home again, and be reminded of why you read serious fiction in the first place.” —The New York Review of Books
“Marvelous . . . Everything we want in a novel--except, when it's rocking along, for it never to be over.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Jonathan Franzen has built a powerful novel out of the swarming consciousness of a marriage, a family, a whole culture--our culture.” —Don DeLillo
“Looms as a model for what ambitious storytelling can still say about modern life . . . Franzen swings for the fences and clears them with yards to spare.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“The novel we've been waiting for...a stunning anatomy of family dysfunction...a contemporary novel that will endure.” —Esquire
“In its complexity, its scrutinizing and utterly unsentimental humanity, and its grasp of the subtle relationships between domestic drama and global events....It is a major accomplishment.” —Michael Cunningham
“Frighteningly, luminously authentic.” —The Boston Globe
“A genuine masterpiece . . . This novel is a wisecracking, eloquent, heartbreaking beauty.” —Elle
“The brightest, boldest, and most ambitious novel I've read in many years.” —Pat Conroy
“Brilliant . . . Almost unbearably lifelike.” —The New York Observer
“Funny and deeply sad, large-hearted and merciless, The Corrections is a testament to the range and depth of pleasures great fiction affords.” —David Foster Wallace
“This is a spellbinding novel . . . that is both funny and piercing.” —People