A long scrapbook of a novel, with brilliant passages and fascinating characters let down by long passages of exposition and a plot that tries to do too much.
A seismologist, Renee, works out that the earthquakes around Boston are being caused by a huge hole drilled by Sweeting-Aldren, who are secretly pumping all their waste down it. Louis Holland pursues her, even though she’s older than him, and joins her quest to bring Sweeting-Aldren down. His detested mother has just inherited $22 million shares in the company, and he wants to teach her a lesson.
But just as important, and much more interesting, is the love sub-plot. A troubled girl from Louis’ past, Lauren, turns up and due to a moment of fatal hesitation, he loses Renee. Louis is a brilliant character. He’s like Holden Caulfield at twenty-two. He makes his mother and sister uncomfortable because he is so judgemental. If they’re phony, in his eyes, he won’t even talk to them. When a fundamentalist Christian takes over the radio-station where he works, he tells the new owner that he (Louis) is the antichrist and walks out.
Franzen has such good insights into the way family works, something he developed even further in The Corrections. If you loved The Corrections (like I did) you’ll like this novel.