PURITY is full of instantly relatable characters most notable of those being the title character Pip (Purity) Tyler. Franzen paints her in a relatable light; dealing with the millennial crisis of unmanageable student loan debt, an unfulfilling job cold-calling to sell people on a product/service that she herself doesn’t believe in, to her dysfunctional relationship with her unstable mother. In search of a change of scene to shake her loose from her stagnating life she hops onboard the Wiki-Leak-esque SUNLIGHT PROJECT and travels to South America, partly to dig up answers about the mysteriously blank past of her Mother and to hopefully discern the identity of her father.
Franzen masterfully crafts this search for identity in the post-industrial age, couched in the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, and shadowed by the looming specter of post-Berlin Wall Germany. Always self-aware Franzen even manages to drop in the below line from a minor character:
“So many Jonathans. A plague of literary Jonathans. If you read only the New York Times Book Review, you’d think it was the most common male name in America. Synonymous with talent, greatness.”
Maybe I’m biased, but that line made me chuckle.
I highly recommend picking up a copy when the novel drops in September.
P.S.-for all my Sussex kinfolk, there’s a scene that even takes place in Stokes State Forest!