It is 1971 and almost Christmas in New Prospect, USA. Russ Hildebrandt is the second pastor of the First Reform Church. Marion, his wife, has a past that Russ does not know about. Both are struggling to prevent their marriage from collapsing. Their children, in turn, have problems of their own. Clem, the eldest son, is coming home from college, having taken a difficult decision. Becky, their daughter, is very popular, attractive and falling in love. Fifteen-year-old Perry is bright, but addicted and selling drugs to eighth-graders. Meanwhile, Judson, the youngest child, is loved by everyone. Events from the past and present come to a head on a single winter day, described from intertwined perspectives and with sustained suspense. Franzen’s long-anticipated book about a “normal” American family offers a fascinating insight into their searching for identity and wrestling with morality. This first volume of a trilogy stands on its own, but may well leave you longing for the next.