A fascinating look at a complex family surrounded by religion, morality and long buried secrets!
I was kindly gifted this to take part in the Tandem Collective readalong.
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
It’s December 23, 1971, and heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless – unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem’s sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh-graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.
This is a heavy book and I’m not just talking about its weight! It’s heavy on religion and scrutinizes each characters flaws and personality throughout. For this reason, at times I felt a little bogged down with the religious references and language, however if you take away that, at the core of this book is a brilliant story about the Hildebrandt family and how their seemingly perfect lives are not all that perfect.
Chapters alternate between each family member where we as a reader learn a lot about each of them, which is probably why some of the chapters are quite long….one even came in at 109 pages!
This was my first Franzen book and whilst I may not be rushing out to read his others, I can’t dispute that he is a brilliant writer who effortlessly brings characters to life. He knows them inside and out, every little flaw, everything they feel is all linked to something and as we head to the end of the book all of these issues come to the surface for each of the Hildebrandts.
Marion was definitely my favourite character, her story / background was the most intriguing and I definitely enjoyed reading how her character developed. Whilst the ending to me felt a little rushed or too simple, it did bring loose ends together and apparently this is the first book in a trilogy so it will be interesting to see where these characters go from here.
As mentioned I read this as part of the Tandem Collective UK read along and I definitely think this book is perfect to be read as a group. There is so much discussion to be had about not just the characters but the themes running through the story that it was great to discuss and hear everyone’s opinions on this.