Jonathan Franzen’s gift for wedding depth and vividness of character with breadth of social vision has never been more dazzlingly evident than in Crossroads.
It’s December 23, 1971, and the Hildebrandt family is at a crossroads. The patriarch, Russ, the associate pastor of a suburban Chicago church, is poised to break free of a marriage he finds joyless—unless his brilliant and unstable wife, Marion, breaks free of it first. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college afire 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 veered into the era’s counterculture, while their younger brother Perry, fed up with selling pot to support his drug habit, has firmly resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.
Universally recognized as the leading novelist of his generation, Jonathan Franzen is often described as a teller of family stories. Only now, though, in Crossroads, has he given us a novel in which a family, in all the intricacy of its workings, is truly at the center.
By turns comic and harrowing, a tour-de-force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, Crossroads is the first volume of a trilogy, A Key to All Mythologies, that will span three generations and trace the inner life of our culture through the present day. Complete in itself, set in a historical moment of moral crisis, and reaching back to the early twentieth century, Crossroads serves as a foundation for a sweeping investigation of human mythologies, as the Hildebrandt family navigates the political, intellectual, and social crosscurrents of the past fifty years.