“I listened to this book with a fine narration by Dylan Baker. Not till the end did I hear that I had listened to an abridged recording. Oops! But thinking back, it sure seemed long enough and complete enough and good enough. It was my first book by Franzen and it's finely crafted writing. Yet in the beginning, I was tempted to stop. Not another book about a dysfunctional family! Did I need this?
But the power of the writing and plot got me hooked anyway into book love and I looked for excuses to listen and raced right through it with satisfaction.
The failed professor, Chip, reminds me of a similar treatment by J.M. Coetzee in his Disgrace, and Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys, and Don DiMillo's White Noise. I think so many novelists spend enough time in academia to witness first hand the dark side.
But the more potent theme of this book is the cracked and damaged parents, the father Alfred Lambert in particular, and how his damaged personality inflicts further problems on his children--although in different ways. In this way, I'm also reminded of Pat Conroy's deliciously damaged family members in his fine novels. And yet, they are not all bad. In a most dramatic way, Alfred is revealed to be a hero to his daughter near the end, although opaque to the end to his long-suffering wife, Enid. Nothing is all bad.
Along the way the author runs the petard through the pharmaceutical industry, health care in America, consumerism, and other ripe targets. ”