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PURITY: A Political Novel ~Jonathan Franzen

Monday, July 10th, 2017

PURITY is a marvelous story by Jonathan Franzen and it was on my holiday wish list in 2015.  It had already been out for a while, but with my reading schedule it was the first time I could clear a space to savor this read.   I like Franzen’s entire writing list and have read them even before one became an Oprah selection.  They are dense reads with great detail and the development of the characters is outstanding; one is certain that they know the individuals.  When you mix in the personal look at history that the characters share with the reader, the books become a truth to build perspective upon and enjoy.

PURITY was not an exception to the writer’s rule and it took me a full 18 hours to get from cover to cover and I had to put it aside several times to find enough time to truly understand the story and the lessons about life and political reality.  The story line is such amazing separate pieces that resolve into an integration of the character’s lives and a remarkable conclusion.   There was an incredible amount of sexual tension to the story as if sexuality was the subtext of the wholeness of the story.

Pip is the first focus and she wanders through the maze of other’s lives until she connects all the folks into a reunion that shines the love through the timeline and allows for it to manifest in a healthy manner.  She is a computer expert in a demeaning job saddled with $130,000 of education loans.  Her mother is “weird” and lives in a cabin in rural California and works as a grocery store checker.  Pip is learning about people, work, and how to get along with others – maybe?    She is also the focus of political intrigue and lessons, which match up with her self-protection, sarcasm, and ability to discern what is real. Pip does not know who she is or her roots.

Andreas is the political operative and the founder of an organization that is similar to WikiLeaks – ‘The Sunlight Project’.  He grew up with his parents a part of the Communist regime in East Berlin and yet for most of his youth he led a life of privilege and wealth.  He is well detailed and he starts his own revolution by speaking out at University and working against the grain.  He is there for the falling of the ‘Wall’ and he continually tries to ‘help’ people, particularly teenage girls, as a counselor at the mission church where he lives and hides.  He ends up developing a secret community of hackers and ‘truth tellers’ in a remote location in Bolivia.

The reader is pulled into the extraordinary wealth of a family in the Midwest of the USA.  The daughter is rebelling and trying to escape the life of the rich and yet her mental health is not so stable.  She is rebellious and a ‘hippie’ protestor/artist in her youth and she also becomes an exile as she hides from her family and takes on the role of being poverty.

Each section of the book, I had to read without putting the book down it was so compelling and detailed and fascinating.  One needs to wonder what the rebellion of youth will bring us and how we will live out our values within the confines of the life we are living.  How do we escape the political ramifications of our circumstances and be in touch with our values?  What do we reveal about ourselves and how is it that we learn to achieve our destiny to arrive at our own home; find the love we need?     Whew!  PURITY is the perfect length and yet still can take our breath away.

As always Franzen does not disappoint making the mind work with good story telling skill and focus.    A noteworthy read- PURITY

Author:

Jonathan Franzen is the author of four other novels, most recently FREEDOM and THE CORRECTIONS, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including FARTHER AWAY and THE KRAUS PROJECT, all published by FSG.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie de Kunste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

“Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters–Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers–and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.”(Cover)

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