The Corrections explores the lives of the Lamberts, a traditional and somewhat repressed Midwestern family whose children have fled to the East Coast to start new lives free from the influence of their parents. Chronologically, the novel shifts back and forth throughout the late 20th century, depicting in detail the personal growth and mistakes of each family member.
Alfred Lambert is a railroad engineer and the stern patriarch of the Lambert family, based in an unnamed suburb of the fictional Midwestern city of St. Jude. After his children grow up and move to the East Coast, Alfred retires, but soon begins to suffer from Parkinson’s disease, causing his ordered, strict personality to fracture. Alfred’s loyal wife Enid has long suffered from his authoritarian behavior, and her life is made more difficult by Alfred’s worsening dementia. She is also concerned by their three children’s questionable life choices, as well as their abandonment of traditional Protestant values.
Gary, the eldest Lambert son, is a financially successful but alcoholic banker in Philadelphia. His family suspects he is depressed, although he tries to deny it (mostly to himself). Chip, the middle child, is a Marxist academic whose disastrous affair with a student loses him a tenure-track university teaching position; with money troubles he accepts employment by a corrupt Lithuanian politiciandefrauding American investors. Denise, the youngest of the family, is a successful chef in Philadelphia but loses her job after separate secret affairs with her boss and his wife.
As the economic boom of the late 1990s goes into full swing, the family’s problems become impossible to ignore. The separate plot-lines converge on Christmas morning back in St. Jude, when Enid and her children are forced to confront Alfred’s accelerating physical and mental decline.
From The New Yorker
A sprawling novel about the diaspora of the modern American family: Enid and Alfred have carved their lives out of the suburban Midwest bedrock—hard work, shrimp cocktail, and silent sex—but their children live in New York and Philadelphia, eat wild Norwegian salmon, experiment with bisexuality, and study Foucault. Franzen gives us a tragicomic portrait of a flawed nation with the equally flawed notion of perfectibility at its heart.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
“You will laugh, wince, groan, weep, leave the table and maybe the country, promise never to go home again, and be reminded of why you read serious fiction in the first place.” ―The New York Review of Books
“Marvelous . . . Everything we want in a novel–except, when it’s rocking along, for it never to be over.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Jonathan Franzen has built a powerful novel out of the swarming consciousness of a marriage, a family, a whole culture–our culture.” ―Don DeLillo
“Looms as a model for what ambitious storytelling can still say about modern life . . . Franzen swings for the fences and clears them with yards to spare.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“The novel we’ve been waiting for…a stunning anatomy of family dysfunction…a contemporary novel that will endure.” ―Esquire
“In its complexity, its scrutinizing and utterly unsentimental humanity, and its grasp of the subtle relationships between domestic drama and global events….It is a major accomplishment.” ―Michael Cunningham
“Frighteningly, luminously authentic.” ―The Boston Globe
“A genuine masterpiece . . . This novel is a wisecracking, eloquent, heartbreaking beauty.” ―Elle
“The brightest, boldest, and most ambitious novel I’ve read in many years.” ―Pat Conroy
“Brilliant . . . Almost unbearably lifelike.” ―The New York Observer
“Funny and deeply sad, large-hearted and merciless, The Corrections is a testament to the range and depth of pleasures great fiction affords.” ―David Foster Wallace
“This is a spellbinding novel . . . that is both funny and piercing.” ―People
Top customer reviews
Confession: I’ve resisted this book for years, in part because its author, Jonathan Franzen, has a reputation (deserved or not) for being something of a jerk. He’s not exactly Mr. Warmth and Cheer on his talk-show appearances, and then there was that little issue with Oprah Winfrey.
Also, reviews informed me that “The Corrections’” plot concerns a middle-class family of five in the late-twentieth-century Midwest, with Depression-era parents and grown kids who flew the coop. I happen to hail from a middle-class family of five in the late-twentieth-century Midwest, with Depression-era parents and grown kids who flew the coop. I thought the book might hit a little too close to home, and so I took a pass.
Franzen is a spectacularly gifted writer. His insights and prose are endlessly inventive. He deftly mixes elements of Shakespearean tragedy with humor straight out of Kurt Vonnegut. He chooses the perfect word, the perfect phrase to illustrate his scenes. The major theme, in which members of The Greatest Generation and The Me Generation collide with societal change and with each other, is important to many Americans. National Book Award voters honored “The Corrections” in 2001, and justifiably so.
However … this was a novel that I admired more than I enjoyed. The characters, although fully realized and recognizable, are not what I’d call endearing, and the reader is asked to spend 566 pages with them. Unless you grew up in a family much like the Lamberts – (ahem) – “The Corrections” might engage your mind but not so much your soul. — grouchyeditor.com