"Purity" by Jonathan Franzen (2015)
"He put his glasses back on and stared straight ahead. A ghost was in the room with them. 'It's not possible,' he said. 'I don't have a daughter, and even if I somehow did, what are the chances of her living under my roof?"
According to Wikipedia, Jonathan Franzen's most famous novels are The Corrections and Freedom, neither of which I've read. He was close to winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and he's been referred to as a "great American novelist" by at least one major news outlet. Purity is his most recent book, and was released five years after Freedom.
In Purity, a young woman goes in search of a father she's never known. She does so over the objections of her eccentric mother, who's cut all ties with their shared past. In her search the young woman crosses paths with a number of other people, all of whom have knowledge of her missing parent.
It starts out well, and I liked the main character from the beginning. Her struggles with student debt and sexual insecurity make her very accessible, even if her neuroses seem a bit over the top at times. By the end of the novel I was happy she'd found some kind of closure in her life, though certain elements of her sexuality seemed a bit too dictated by the story the author wanted to tell.
Where this book struggles is in the middle, with all of the other characters. Every woman in this book is a manipulative neurotic, and every man is a cowardly intellectual. After a while it began to seem like they were all doppelgangers for one another. As a reader I wanted to like them, but at times they seemed pointlessly eccentric, as if the author made them that way for the sake of stringing the plot along. I get that he was making some point about the male-female dialectic, and perhaps also how younger generations might transcend this dialectic, but including female characters who weren't manipulative neurotics and male characters who weren't cowardly intellectuals would have given this story a lot more depth.
And then there's the ending. Kind of a let down if you ask me. All of that personal drama just to end like that. It was very frustrating. And Purity isn't short either.
Would I recommend this book? No, not really. I just don't think it's worth the effort. But would I read another book by Jonathan Franzen? Yes, I think I would. There's enough in Purity to make me curious about his more famous efforts, and I think those other novels are probably much better.
"Artemis" by Andy Weir (2017)
"A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
"The Fishermen" by Chigozie Obioma (2015)
"China Rich Girlfriend" by Kevin Kwan (2015)