Crossroads, Jonathan Franzen
Farrar, Straus & Giroux - 10/2021
Crossroads, is the story of a mid-western family from New Prospect, Illinois. As Christmas 1971 approaches we meet The Hilderbrant family: Russ is 47 and is the associate pastor of The First Reform Church, a liberal suburban church who is at odds with the Crossroads youth group minister, the younger and more popular, Rick Ambrose. Russ also finds himself attracted to an attractive woman who is a recent widow. Marion feels the cracks in their marriage as well and has her own secrets. Clem is the eldest son of the Hilderbrants, he is in college but the war in Vietnam is always on his mind. Becky is popular in high school and has a crush on Tanner Evans, a boy active in the Crossroads youth movement. Perry Hilderbrant is 15 and probably the smartest of the siblings but he is involved in drugs. The youngest child is nine year old Judson.
As the Vietnam war is still going on each of the characters seems to struggle with religion, morality issues and/or the concept of goodness. I can't say I loved any of the characters but, I did feel invested in each and every one enough to care about what happened to them.
Crossroads, the 1st of a planned trilogy, was everything I love in a well written novel. It's a story about family with flawed, well-explored characters who grapple with real life dilemmas. What was really satisfying for me was the dialogue. I also loved feeling like I knew these characters better than they seemed to know each other.
The hardcover (which I purchased) was nearly 600 pages and the audio (downloaded from the library) was nearly 25 hours. The combo read/listen worked beautifully for me and the audio narration by David Pittu was excellent as well. Highly recommended.
Rating - 5/5 stars