Summary and book reviews of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Corrections

by Jonathan Franzen

The Corrections
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2001, 528 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2002, 592 pages

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Book Summary

The Corrections brings an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions into violent collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental health care, and globalized greed.

The Corrections is a grandly entertaining novel for the new century -- a comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes.

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man -- or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Stretching from the Midwest at midcentury to the Wall Street and Eastern Europe of today, The Corrections brings an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions into violent collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental health care, and globalized greed. Richly realistic, darkly hilarious, deeply humane, it confirms Jonathan Franzen as one of our most brilliant interpreters of American society and the American soul.

The Madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen. The sun low in the sky, a minor light, a cooling star. Gust after gust of disorder. Trees restless, temperatures falling, the whole northern religion of things coming to an end. No children in the yards here. Shadows lengthened on yellowing zoysia. Red oaks and pin oaks and swamp white oaks rained acorns on houses with no mortgage. Storm windows shuddered in the empty bedrooms. And the drone and hiccup of a clothes dryer, the nasal contention of a leaf blower, the ripening of local apples in a paper bag, the smell of the gasoline with which Alfred Lambert had cleaned the paintbrush from his morning painting of the wicker love seat.

Three in the afternoon was a time of danger in these gerontocratic suburbs of St. Jude. Alfred had awakened in the great blue chair in which he'd been sleeping since lunch. He'd had his nap and there would be no local news until ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this guide

The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, an unflinchingly honest yet ultimately redemptive chronicle of an American family. We hope they will help you approach the complex story of the Lamberts, which takes a hard look at the role of family in contemporary society and questions the effects of materialism in late-twentieth-century America.


Questions for discussion

  1. Consider the atmosphere of suburban St. Jude (named for the patron saint of hopeless causes) in comparison to the more sophisticated surroundings of Philadelphia and New York. Why has the Lamberts' neighborhood evolved into a gerontocratic ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist

Ferociously detailed, gratifyingly mind-expanding, and daringly complex and unhurried, New Yorker writer Franzen's third and best-yet novel aligns the spectacular dysfunctions of one Midwest family with the explosive malfunctions of society-at-large.

Publishers Weekly

[Corrections] is a book made of equal parts fury and humor, one that takes a dry-eyed look at our culture, at our pains and insecurities, while offering hope that, occasionally at least, we can reach some kind of understanding. This is, simply, a masterpiece.

Author Blurb David Foster Wallace
Funny and deeply sad, large-hearted and merciless, The Corrections is a testament to the range and depth of pleasures great fiction affords.

Author Blurb Don DeLillo
Jonathan Franzen has built a powerful novel out of the swarming consciousness of a marriage, a family, a whole culture -- our culture. And he has done it with sympathy and expansiveness that bend the edgy modern temper to a generous breadth of vision.

Author Blurb Michael Cunningham
In its complexity, its scrutinizing and utterly unsentimental humanity, and its grasp of the subtle relationships between domestic drama and global events, The Corrections stands in the company of Mann's Buddenbrooks and DeLillo's White Noise. It is a major accomplishment.

Author Blurb Pat Conroy
Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections is the brightest, boldest, and most ambitious novel I've read in many years. With this dazzling work, Franzen gives notice that from now on, he is only going to hunt with the big cats.

Reader Reviews

Ryan Schiely

Franzen's Best to Date
From small town life to big city indulgences Franzen's novel brings forth nearly every aspect of family life beginning with childhood memories and working it's way through the fallout of the child-parent relationship and the failing relationship of ...   Read More

S. Peddycord

The Corrections entertained me while making me question "what the heck is going on here?" I often had to flip back several pages to figure out who, when and where. The author brilliantly jumped from one setting to another (and there are ...   Read More

cindy hartley

I loved this book - deep, perceptive, very in-tune with the American culture. The prose style is beautiful; the descriptions of Alfred's descent into madness are astonishing. Although this novel may be too literary for the general public, I can ...   Read More

Anonymous

Just finished The Corrections and several other novels. Was curious about the reviews and was disappointed that two other reviewers found it boring. I thought it was a remarkable achievement and one of the best novels I've read in a long time. You ...   Read More

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