The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen is a superbly written book about an extremely dysfunctional family. Franzen manages to use language and metaphors that are consistently unique and always perfect choices. He focuses on his characters flaws and picks out details that explain exactly who they are. Here is an example, when Chip (Alfred and Enid's middle child) is waiting for them at an airport.
Chip had crossed his arms defensively and raised one hand to pull on the wrought-iron rivet in his ear. He worried that he might tear the rivet right out of his earlobe—that the maximum pain his ear's nerves could generate was less pain than he needed not to steady himself. From his station by the metal detectors he watched an azure-haired girl overtake his parents, an azure-haired girl of college age, a very wantable stranger with pierced lips and eyebrows. It struck him that if he could have sex with this girl for one second he could face his parents confidently, and that if he could keep on having sex with this girl once every minute for as long as his parents were in town he could survive their entire visit.
After that section the reader knows exactly what Chip is like and what he thinks of his parents.
The Lambert family consists of Alfred, Enid, and their three adult children: Gary, Chip, and Denise. Alfred has dementia. Enid is jealous of her neighbors and consistently comparing members of her family to others. Gary compensates for his insecurity by constantly issuing edicts. Chip is a frustrated writer who goes from one failed relationship to the next. And Denise is attracted to married men (and women).
In other reviews of The Corrections I noticed that some readers didn't enjoy spending time with characters that have so many problems. I had issues with that also, in the beginning of the book. But ultimately every member of this sorry family allowed some affection for each other to come through. I loved seeing those emotions come through.
If you enjoy quirky characters, that's a bonus with this book. But in the end it is the great writing that makes Jonathan Franzen's work wonderful.
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