Book Review: Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads

CrossroadsCrossroads by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I still remember reading ‘The Corrections‘ and then recommending it to everyone I knew. I found it comic, poignant, brilliant and unfortunately relatable, and I was very much swept into the story. So, reading ‘Crossroads‘ over 20 years later, I wonder: have I changed? Or has Franzen? I no longer found the shifts in perspective between different family members very interesting. And I was no longer engaged by being RIGHT INSIDE someone’s head and following along their every thought, all 8,271 of them. I also found it strangely repetitive from what I remember. His flawed, neurotic characters express their worries and fears but for the most part don’t grow or mature or have much self-understanding. At least one character experiments with drugs and you get to read EVERY detail. Bodily functions, including shitting, are recounted. Often, a series of events will build into the public mortification and shame of the character; I found this a bit disturbing how often this happened and how similar in tone the events were: falling apart, or getting criticised or making a huge mistake in front of groups of people, or a family or a lover. I did enjoy Marion’s story more, the mother and wife with a secret. And the brilliant drug-selling Perry also had his moments, where I was intrigued to get inside his unique mind. But otherwise, I’m not sure why I found most of the book long and tedious. I didn’t know it’s the first planned book of a trilogy, which explained the completely bizarre ending, not even a good ending for a chapter, the storylines don’t get tied up and the narrative just peters out. But I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy. It seems I’m very much at odds with other readers, as I’ve read sparkling reviews of the book in the New York Times and the Guardian. But nope. This one wasn’t for me.

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