The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Enid and Alfred Lambert have been married about fifty years. They live in St. Jude, a dying railroad town in the Midwest. Their college professor son no longer teaches and now lives in New York City. Their banker son and his family live in Philadelphia. Their chef daughter also lives in Philadelphia, although the two rarely visit or speak. Alfred has Parkinson’s Disease but refuses to change his habits or allow anyone except Enid care for him. Enid has arranged for them to take an autumn cruise to see the New England colors. She has two wishes. Enid wants to have fun on this trip. And she wants her family to gather in St. Jude for one last Christmas.
Chip, the college professor, is languishing in New York City, after losing his job from unsavory circumstances. He pretends to his parents that he is an important writer, and is working on a screenplay. Gary, the banker, is denying he has clinical depression. He argues constantly with his wife and does not understand his sons as they become young teens. Denise came to Philadelphia to attend college. Instead she discovers she prefers working in restaurant kitchens. After a series of relationships that have centered around her professional life, she is now the head chef at a new, up and coming restaurant that is immediately popular in Philadelphia.
This saga follows a family for a few months with flashbacks of years. Neither Enid or the children ever understood Alfred. Alfred is a private person who feels a person has to work hard to get ahead. He has a depression mentality towards money, frustrating his wife. The children had an average childhood, happy enough, and couldn’t wait to escape into their own lifes. But are their own lives any more exciting?
I read this book with my monthly book club. It will be interesting to hear our discussion of it next week. It did not grab me and enthrall me, yet it gave me a lot to consider. The Lambert family would be an average American family from the mid-twentieth century. They are not abusive, children are raised with discipline, and they are not overtly loving or emotional. Enid had been the stay at home wife who always more than Alfred provided. Alfred was content to tinker in his basement when he wasn’t diligently working for the railroad.
This took me a while to read, and I might not have finished it if it hadn’t been our monthly choice for the club. Yet I’m glad I did. It’s a book that convinces you to check your own life and see if you’re like any of the Lamberts…
Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations