Purity (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

If Franzen's earlier novels showed that all unhappy families are dissimilar, then Purity goes a step further in the 21st Century to show that the nature of the post-middle class family and individual identity are even more of a mystery. Franzen has fun putting his characters into misery again, but this time they have a bit more free will than he normally affords them as they struggle in a larger, perhaps more political landscape. Pip, who is burdened with crushing college debt and haunted by not knowing the identity of her father, leaves her bullshit job selling fake green energy scams to unwitting consumers, and instead follows a path into the hacker world and investigative reporting. And Andreas Wolf is a charismatic hacker who steals the secrets of others while harboring his own. Wolf navigates two separate totalitarian worlds: first in East Germany before the fall, and then later traversing the landscape created by today's massive tech companies. It all makes for a darkly comic, compelling novel. Oh, and there's a missing nuclear warhead, too.

— Will


A New York Times bestselling magnum opus for our morally complex times from the author of Freedom

Young Pip Tyler doesn't know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she's saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she's squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother--her only family--is hazardous. But she doesn't have a clue who her father is, why her mother chose to live as a recluse with an invented name, or how she'll ever have a normal life.

Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organization that traffics in all the secrets of the world--including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn't understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.

Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters--Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers--and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.

About the Author

Jonathan Franzen is the author of four other novels, most recently The Corrections and Freedom, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including Farther Away and The Kraus Project, all published by FSG. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie der Kunste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374239213
ISBN-10: 0374239215
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Pages: 576
Language: English