BOOK ∙ 2021
In this complex and poignant novel, Jonathan Franzen explores how American life changed during the 1970s. Russ, the patriarch of the Hildebrandt clan, is losing his grip on both his family and the suburban Chicago church where he serves as pastor. Russ’ lust for another woman strains his relationship with his wife, Marion, who has her own fascinating issues to work through. Each of the four Hildebrandt kids has strayed from Russ’ accepted path, exploring drugs, sex, and a strangely alluring youth group led by a rival pastor. Franzen uses each teenager’s relationship with the church to reveal a ton about their character, from Becky’s unnerving infatuation with Jesus to Perry’s descent into drugs to Clem’s struggle to choose between college and the military. He gives his characters plenty of room to reveal their multiple layers, and every moment of it is fascinating. Crossroads is sure to be one of the most discussed—and argued-over—books of 2021.