Crossroads

A Novel

2021

It’s December 23, 1971, and heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless—unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire 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 sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.

Jonathan Franzen’s novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. Now, in Crossroads, Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own.

A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen’s gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident.

“Franzen is a master of rendering the broad sweep of humanity through the (extremely human) minutia of a family. In Crossroads, I felt a frustration and fondness for the Hildebrandts so deep it was almost familial. This is, perhaps, [Franzen’s] greatest skill as a writer . . . What more could a reader ask for, really?”

JESSIE GAYNOR, LIT HUB

The Corrections was a masterpiece, but Crossroads is [Franzen’s] finest novel yet . . . He has arrived at last as an artist whose first language, faced with the society of greed, is not ideological but emotional, and whose emotions, fused with his characters, tend more toward sorrow and compassion than rage and self-contempt . . . Crossroads is Franzen’s greatest and most perfect novel to date, but more importantly, it is his most promising: an inexhaustible resource for future novels…”

FRANK GUAN, BOOKFORUM

“[Franzen] imbues his books with big ideas, in this case about responsibility to family, self, God, country, and one’s fellow man, among other matters, all the while digging deep into his characters’ emotions, experiences, desires, and doubts in a way that will please readers seeking to connect to books heart-first . . . Franzen’s intensely absorbing novel is amusing, excruciating, and at times unexpectedly uplifting—in a word, exquisite.”

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Crossroads

A Novel

2021

“[Franzen] imbues his books with big ideas, in this case about responsibility to family, self, God, country, and one’s fellow man, among other matters, all the while digging deep into his characters’ emotions, experiences, desires, and doubts in a way that will please readers seeking to connect to books heart-first . . . Franzen’s intensely absorbing novel is amusing, excruciating, and at times unexpectedly uplifting—in a word, exquisite.”

KIRKUS REVIEWS

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 heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless—unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire 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 sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.

Jonathan Franzen’s novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. Now, in Crossroads, Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own.

A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen’s gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident.

“Franzen is a master of rendering the broad sweep of humanity through the (extremely human) minutia of a family. In Crossroads, I felt a frustration and fondness for the Hildebrandts so deep it was almost familial. This is, perhaps, [Franzen’s] greatest skill as a writer . . . What more could a reader ask for, really?”

JESSIE GAYNOR, LIT HUB

The Corrections was a masterpiece, but Crossroads is [Franzen’s] finest novel yet . . . He has arrived at last as an artist whose first language, faced with the society of greed, is not ideological but emotional, and whose emotions, fused with his characters, tend more toward sorrow and compassion than rage and self-contempt . . . Crossroads is Franzen’s greatest and most perfect novel to date, but more importantly, it is his most promising: an inexhaustible resource for future novels…”

FRANK GUAN, BOOKFORUM

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