This review was written by David McMahon, a member of the Tuesday Evening Book Club.

As Tolstoy once famously wrote at the beginning of Anna Karenina, "Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". This book is the story of a midwestern American family struggling with their lives and values, and those around them, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. It chronicles the Berglunds, Walter and Patty and their son Joey, through marriage, compromise, infidelity, separation and self-acceptance. Impossible to summarise in a few sentences, this brilllant book blends the personal with the political, as the characters seek personal happiness while pursuing lives consistent with their basic values amidst the changing social and political environment.

Franzen's characters are deeply described, as are their interactions with friends, neighbours and community, while engaging with some of the larger national and global issues. It is a novel in the classic tradition, an engaging story about very human people, set in their time and place.

 

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