Prior to moving to LA, I asked my Facebook and Twitter family for some American literary recommendations. An ex-colleague of mine suggested I read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, and so when I happened upon a copy in my local bookshop in Bondi I quickly added it to my LA reading pile.
A tale fraught with familial tension, The Corrections follows the Lamberts – mother Enid, husband Albert – who is losing his mind to Parkinsons and contemplating suicide – and their three grown children; Gary, Chip and Denise, who are all facing mid-life crises of their own.
Told through the eyes of each of the five family members, we learn that the Lamberts are both a highly dysfunctional, yet achingly monotonous family hailing from middle-class midwestern suburbia. The eldest child, Gary, is a banker living in Philadelphia and struggling with a depression he refuses to acknowledge to the detriment of what seems to be a picture perfect marriage on the surface. Chip, the middle child, is sacked from his position at a prestigious college for having an affair with a student, while youngest child, Denise, is a master chef who, with the help of her boss, creates an extremely high end restaurant in Philadelphia but loses it all when she her affairs with her bosses’ wife and then her boss are unveiled.
The focus of much of The Corrections is Enid’s longing to have one last Christmas with her children at the family home, before her husband’s illness forces them to downsize and relocate; a move she is desperate to avoid. The children are forced to confront demons of the past and long-buried hurts to grant their mother’s final festive wish, and suffice it to say the coming together of the Lambert’s is not without drama.
A tale that is rife with simmering tensions, The Corrections is a brilliantly written and hugely relatable story that perfectly depicts both the mundane and the maddening complexities of every day family life.