A book that was made much of because there was much to make. In prose that sets the standard for 21st century eloquence, Franzen created a fictional midwestern family, the Lamberts, from the fictional city of St. Jude, then splayed them open for us so we could pick through their lives and their psyches in molecular detail. Chip, the clever, amiable screwup; Denise, the hard-driving lesbian chef; Gary, the “conventional” sibling, a banker who did everything his parents wanted him to and can’t understand why they don’t love him. As diligently as they work to mess up their own lives, they remain forever hopeful, even as the grand imperial America of the 20th century slowly falls to pieces around them.
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