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Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
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Crossroads (original 2021; edition 2021)

by Jonathan Franzen

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1,3676213,815 (3.93)21
"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. Jonathan Franzen's novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. Now, in Crossroads, Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own. A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen's gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident."--… (more)
Member:smaucione
Title:Crossroads
Authors:Jonathan Franzen
Info:London : 4th Estate, 2021.
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen (2021)

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English (52)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  German (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Crossroads is the beginning of a trilogy from [a:Jonathan Franzen|2578|Jonathan Franzen|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1563172476p2/2578.jpg], 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, [b:The Corrections|3805|The Corrections|Jonathan Franzen|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1355011305l/3805._SY75_.jpg|941200].

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. ( )
  featherbooks | May 7, 2024 |
Crossroads is a huge dense novel. It follows a dysfunctional family through their peak crises, their backstories, and a glimpse of the future. There’s the minister dad who craves other women, the guilt ridden mom with a dark past full of secrets, the college son who needs to overcome his need to please his father and find his own path, the teen daughter who is beautiful and popular but maybe not happy, and the addict teen son who is too smart for his own good. All these people’s lives and poor choices play out against the backdrop of a church youth group run like a cultish therapy session. The mom’s chapters were my favorite. I really liked the book but found the end a bit unsatisfying. Maybe the family members did too? ( )
  technodiabla | Apr 25, 2024 |
Crossroads is yet another long book about a dysfunctional family. I had trouble relating to them. I have no experience with a church youth group. They represent a world that I only have negative thoughts about. I'm ready to believe the worst. I see such groups as full of duplicitous people taking advantage of vulnerable people. Even the best of outcomes, finding God and giving up self, seems less than positive. Marx said it unkindly, religion is the opiate of the masses. He was condescending, but there was a kernel of truth in what he said. I'm sure they do good for some people, just not me. I lived through the sixties. I grew out of it. The cover photo of a guitar-strumming boy and a girl singing along brought up memories, but that was long ago, sixty years at this point. I was astounded by being sucked into this story. It exceeded my low expectations.

God. Yes, he's everywhere, but in this book he's virtually on every page. Normally that would be enough to turn me off. But eventually it made sense. These are his people. The story would make less sense without him. You could say this book is all about people searching for God, how they find him, what happens to them, and how God and religion figure in to it. I was not expecting this. It's not a subject I would expect Franzen to be exploring. Family, yes, God, not so much. The book is actually our looking in to the lives of the members of one family. Fair warning, these people seem to see suffering as God's will, and only when they are truly suffering do they see God. Yes, they see God in beauty and in nature, but that never seems enough.

The Father, Russ, is an under achieving, has been, Associate Pastor. He grew up in a pacifist Mennonite community and sought God early. While doing service as a conscientious objector to WW II, he finds God with the Navajos in Arizona. He meets Marion and is immediately drawn to her faith in God. Her beauty is an awakening to him. But that was twenty-five years ago. Now he sees her as fat and his four kids as people who reject him. Feeling his marriage is over, he begins lusting after some of his parishioners, only to have the foxy divorcee Frances cross his path. Stay tuned.

The fellowship, Crossroads, is a youth fellowship of a local Christian church. It draws kids from other churches. It emphases sharing feelings, hugging, being supportive, honesty with total strangers. The cool kids have been attracted by a young man with a guitar and his golden-voiced girlfriend. Drugs are prohibited but right on the periphery. They are led by Rick Ambrose, who is competing with Russ. Eventually, the kids kick out Russ citing his sermonizing to them, too much God talk. When Rick doesn't support Russ, they engage in mutual hatred.

The mother, Marion, is the narrator though much of the book. She had a very troubled childhood, but there is much more to her than that. She has severe mental issues, while they are not labelled, what we see her do we normally call OCD, manic-depression, hallucinating, and more. For her, sex and God are closely related, both intense euphoria. As a young beautiful woman, she loses her virginity and falls totally for a married womanizer. His eventual rejection pushes her over the edge, and she winds up institutionalized for a couple of weeks. She feels power when she understands she can throw a switch and avoid the worst. She knows she has to hide in plain sight. Too dangerous to share everything. In a sense, she's the antithesis of Crossroads. She meets Russ when he is in Arizona having just completed his work with the Navajos. She's impressed with his need to do service, he's impressed with her constant references to God, his own religious fervor, her belief in him, and her beauty. But now it's twenty-five years later, and she's grown fat, and he's bored with the marriage and looking for something new.

Frances, foxy the widow, enters the picture. She quickly turns his head and he maneuvers things hoping to be alone with her. She flirts with him, and he is ready to give up everything for her. They engage in an extended approach avoidance dance. Even though Russ tries to hide it, others can see what's going on.

Clem, their oldest, sees how his father is a hypocrite. He can't stand his father's constant preaching and dismissal of his mother. His only refuge is his sister Becky, who he adores. Clem can't wait to get away to college where he discovers the wonders of sex with Sharon. His grades tank. Even though Sharon has fallen in love with him, he rejects her. He drops out, gives up his student deferment, and lets his draft board know he's available to do his duty in Vietnam. His family is aghast, especially his pacifist father. This is where we see that even though he rejects religion, Clem is the most Christian of them all. He goes off to Chile and does a two-year service among the poor.

Becky, the prom queen, the social climber, had looked up to Clem while she was growing up, but as we meet her, she's going through some changes. While she had agreed with Clem's rejection of religion, she sees how the cool kids are turning toward Crossroads. She wants in, if only to show them she's still Numero Uno. But as hormones kick in, she turns her attention to the beautiful guitar-strummer. And when her beloved aunt dies and leaves her everything, her parents intervene and ask her to share it equally with her siblings. She realizes if she wants to be the good person she needs to listen to her parents, but she hates doing it and hates them for asking her. They robbed her of her opportunity to go to an elite school. Some wounds never heal. Eventually even she sees God. She winds up never going to college, getting pregnant, marrying the guitar guy, and setting up house. It takes a couple of years before she and Clem can accept each other.

Perry, the druggie, is a genius with a problem. His drug use gets out of hand. He is the master at hiding what he's doing, but it gets more challenging to keep under wraps. He even joins Crossroads, in a sense to follow his customers as he funds his drug use by selling. But what he is really hiding are serious mental health issues which eventually get out of control and land him institutionalized. He appears to have inherited much from his mother, who sees herself in him and tries to protect him.

Judson, the youngest, has not grown to the point where he can see the dysfunction all around him. Judson is usually Perry's responsibility and they are often playing games together.

It may seem like I've given away the whole story, but trust me, there's much more going on. I've only touched the surface with these summaries. You'll learn a lot more reading the book. It's worth your time. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Mar 18, 2024 |
This book wowed and shocked me at times. I was reminded of how much I like 'The Corrections' when I read this. Franzen writes a good story and he writes in a way that draws you in, without you having to guess what he means. He is also an astute observer of human behaviour. How does he know what we think of our family members and how we can't help thinking badly or make use of them sometimes? Still, I was rather shocked at how Russ and Marion longed for sex with a parishioner and an ex-lover respectively. His description of sibling relationships was at once riveting and astonishing. It is probably true that you can't love all your siblings, and you may even treat them like lovers. it is probably true that some people treat gaining the favour of your siblings like a game. But it is also true that some people simply love and wish the best of their siblings. ( )
  siok | Mar 2, 2024 |
Set in a small American town in Iowa in 1971 and 1972, the novel follows the changing relationships of a family headed by Russ, a pastor in the First Reformed Church, his wife, Marion and four children, ranging in age from 9 to 20 as they struggle to live up to and retain their beliefs. In the course of a tumultuous few months, their lives are upended by a combination of their own actions and jealousies and wider problems in society, notably the Vietnam War and increasing illegal drug use. With his highly readable style, Franzen draws you into a family in transition as each member, apart from the youngest, take turns to describe how they see experience events as they unfold and their secrets are revealed, but not always shared with other family members. The structures and power within the family are radically changed as the two older children reach adulthood in a moving series of testimonies that make for an enthralling, revealing and entertaining story.
  camharlow2 | Feb 20, 2024 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Franzenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pittu, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Voor Kathy!
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De grauwe hemel, doorstreept met kale eiken en iepen van het voorstadje New Prospect, beloofde de samengang van twee weersfronten in een witte kerst toen Russ Hildebrandt in zijn Plymouth Fury-sattionwagen stapte voor zijn ochtendronde langs de huizen van bedlegerige en seniele gemeenteleden van zijn hervormde kerk.
The sky broken by the bare oaks and elms of New Prospect was full of moist promise, a pair of frontal systems grayly colluding to deliver a white Christmas, when Russ Hildebrandt made his morning rounds among the homes of bedridden and senile parishioners in his Plymouth Fury wagon.
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"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. Jonathan Franzen's novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. Now, in Crossroads, Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own. A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen's gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident."--

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Famille de pasteur,
Sexe coupable, religion,
psy, tout est mêlé
(Tiercelin)

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