Author: Jonathan Franzen

The most unsettling things are the most familiar —the more you know somebody the stranger they seem. And nothing is more familiar than family.

Patty Berglund is an ex college basketball star and fanatically perfect mother. She bakes cookies on all her neighbours’ birthdays and never has a bad word to say about anybody. So why has her adored son suddenly moved in with her redneck neighbours? Why is her meek environmentalist husband talking business with billionaire coal moguls? Why has poor Patty, once the shining hope of Barrier Street, retreated into alcoholic isolation?

Each chapter reveals the story from a different family member. Tiny lies, misunderstandings, the weird little bad things we all do to the people we care about the most pile up on top of each other. No perverse thought or rotten motivation is spared. Franzen has a way of making you squirm under the familiar menace of too much love.

This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2016.
Posted 12:42pm Saturday 8th October 2016 by Lucy Hunter.