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It’s December 23, 1971, and the Hildebrandt family is at a crossroads. The patriarch, Russ, the associate pastor of a suburban Chicago church, is poised to break free of a marriage he finds joyless – unless his brilliant and unstable wife, Marion, breaks free of it first. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college afire 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 veered into the era’s counterculture, while their younger brother Perry, fed up with selling pot to support his drug habit, has firmly resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.
By turns comic and harrowing, a tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense which is complete in itself, Crossroads is the first volume of a trilogy that will span three generations and trace the inner life of our culture through the present day. Jonathan Franzen’s gift for wedding depth and vividness of character with breadth of social vision has never been more dazzlingly evident.