9 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
March 9, 2003
"The Corrections" is a decent book about a family that skews more closely to the Bundys than the Cleavers, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was playing catch up the entire way. The book was divided up so that it would focus on one character at a time, usually flowing from the past to the present. The end effect of this is that so little of the book seems to take place in the present.
In the final analysis, I wonder what the point of this book was. Every member of the family is so deeply flawed that they make my own family seem like saints by comparison. There's patriarch Alfred coming apart from Parkinson's and depression, his perpetually nagging wife Enid, selfish yuppie son Gary, aging rebel son Chip, and conflicted lesbian daughter Denise. As Franzen details each of the characters, I'm left feeling that if these people were my family I'd have disowned them long ago. This is not a story of hope, redemption, or family togetherness. It's just a yarn about a severely dysfunctional family that still can't pull it together in the end.
What this book needed, in my opinion, was one central character, one primary focus and a smaller time frame. Seeing the Lamberts through one set of eyes through the Christmas holiday would have eliminated that herky-jerky feeling of jumping back to the past, coming to the present, and then jumping back to the past.
Franzen's writing style tends to be wordy and overblown at times, taking too long to make simple points. That's why the book is almost 600 pages, when it could easily be 400-500. Like Michael Chabon's "Kavalier and Clay", I found myself just having to set the book aside because it would wear me down mentally to where I was almost falling asleep. I also didn't understand the point of the far-fetched Correcktall treatment and the fuss over Alfred's patent, neither of which made any real contribution to the plot.
The only good thing is the characters, and that's why I kept reading. Even though there was no great epiphany where everyone got their stuff together, I thought these people were very realistic (just not like MY family). I suppose some small part of me wanted to see if they'd wind up killing each other in the end, sort of like not being able to look away from a train wreck.
At any rate, this is an OK book. Flawed, but generally interesting. It wasn't the book I was expecting, but it wasn't bad either. In addition to "The Corrections", I recommend "A Man in Full" by Tom Wolfe. The humor, style, and widespread use of colloquialisms is very similar.