Fiction – paperback; Fourth Estate; 508 pages; 1992.
Jonathan Franzen never does things by halves. Strong Motion is a gigantic tome wrestling with gigantic themes. The amazing thing is that he pulls it off brilliantly.
Published a decade before his critically acclaimed The Corrections, Strong Motion is no less awe-inspiring for its depth, imagination and comedic force. Franzen takes a harsh look at family life and the petty jealousies which plague relationships between siblings and parents; he includes a classic romance between a smitten “lost” boy and an older woman; he throws in a corporate-cum-environmental story; he sprinkles in the drama of an earthquake or two; and then weaves in a whole bunch of stuff about the pro-life/pro-choice debate. Oh, and did I mention there’s some religion and New Age mumbo-jumbo in there as well.
How he marries all these incredibly diverse threads together into a gripping and enjoyable read is a credit to the man’s amazing narrative ability. It’s nowhere near as good as The Corrections, but it’s still a wonderful book nonetheless. And, in some ways, it’s like reading the first seed which later grew into the huge Oak Tree of Franzen’s best-selling success.