If we applied reality to the metaphor of an apple pie on the window sill, instead of idyllic notions, we’d be looking at Jonathan Franzens “The Corrections;” a whimsical, shameful and all too human account of the dysfunctional family and our self delusions of the world around us. Our focus is brought to the Lambert family, aging Midwestern parents and their 3 grown children who each ran from the nest as fast as they could. It is through their perceptional misconceptions and the actions taken by each we witness the overwhelming need we all have to “correct” the lives of ourselves and those around us.
When I was investigating this book I found that readers either loved the book or hated it; touting itself as a high brow, post modern, intellectualism work probably didn’t help. This isn’t your typical open & closed tale. It opens itself up in the middle of a period in time and while we do receive a bit of back story, the focus is drawn to the real time moments of our characters with no foreseeable resolution. I imagine it’s a bit pretentious in that way. Readers often want (for lack of a better term) the whole story, while here it is just a chapter in the greater story of life. Franzen doesn’t give us any grand happy endings or aha moments. Instead he lays aside us a mirror that mimics our own lives, only with some imperfections in the reflection. There is no way to see ahead nor behind; only an immediacy of what lay in front of us.
In today’s world of quick and easy gratification, this book refuses to fill a reader’s need for fulfillment. It moves incredibly slow in unfurling it’s central story that by the middle of the book you’re still introducing yourself to characters. Then suddenly without warning it just stops. I can understand how some readers felt a bit cheated and led on.
While I wouldn’t go so far to call this a classic, must read novel; I think it does provide an interesting narrative and a hauntingly familiar glimpse of dysfunctional family that may be more screwed up than one’s own. Throughout the narrative you start to actualize with the characters traits in one way or another. That is part of the beauty of it, the apprehension that engulfs you as you begin to empathize with aspects of the story. The failure to have resolution intensifies the reality of the theme; drives home the innate short comings we all carry. So while it may not be a must read book of mine, however if you appreciate the fragility of human nature or just need to reassure yourself that there are families out there more dysfunctional then your own; it’s a worthwhile read.