By John Crowley
William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061231506, 400pp.
Publication Date: June 1, 2009
One of the most admired and honored of our contemporary literary artists, author John Crowley now brilliantly re-creates a time in America when ordinary people were asked to sacrifice their comforts and uproot their lives for the cause of freedom.
In the early years of the 1940s, as the nation's young men ship off to war, the call goes out for builders of the machinery necessary to defeat the enemy. To this purpose, a city has sprung up seemingly overnight in the windswept fields of Oklahoma: the Van Damme airplane factory, a gargantuan complex dedicated to the construction of the B-30 Pax, the largest bomber ever built. Laborers—some men, but mostly women, many of whom have never operated a rivet gun or held a screwdriver—flock to this place, eager to earn, to grow, to do their part. Many are away from home for the very first time, enticed by the opportunity to be something more than wife and homemaker. In the middle of nowhere they will live, work, and earn their own money, fearing for the safety of their absent fighting men as the world around them changes forever.
Vi, with her gun of a pitching arm, finds Van Damme after fleeing a dying ranch and a stubborn, broken father to chase a future built on something stronger than poison earth. Connie, once fragile and helpless, follows an unfaithful husband here with their little boy in tow—and inadvertently discovers who she is and what she's capable of achieving. Before Diane can enter the factory's gates, the restless young woman must leave behind the hot music and soldier boys she followed, taking a sudden, bold, and dangerous step in pursuit of something different, adult, and real.
Their journeys will be liberating in ways they couldn't imagine, and will lead each of them to Prosper Olander. Disabled, an artist, a forger, a friend—a surprising lover and compassionate listener—Prosper has followed unlikely opportunity down a painfully twisting path to take his place as the true heart and soul of a temporary city. And before the B-30 Pax takes flight, he will change the lives of four women in profound and unexpected ways.
Destined to stand tall among his previous acclaimed fiction—including Little, Big; The Ægypt Cycle; The Translator; and Lord Byron's Novel—John Crowley's Four Freedoms is perhaps his most heartfelt and compelling novel to date. It is a moving, evocative, and unforgettable saga of wives, mothers, and lovers—of strangers, outcasts, and damaged Quixotes—who, unmoored by conflict's unpredictable tides, find community, purpose, identity, independence . . . and one remarkable man who will touch them all.
“Four Freedoms.perfectly captures an era—WWII America—when the chosen are overseas and the left-behind are granted a rare moment of possibility. Crowley’s extraordinary characters and the poignant, funny, disturbing ways they find to connect with one another make you wish this war would never end.”
-San Francisco Chronicle, Top-Shelf Fiction Pick
“John Crowley is a virtuoso of metaphor, a peerless recreator of living moments, of small daily sublimities. And his latest novel, Four Freedoms, is in many ways his most unguarded and imaginative work.”
-New York Times Book Review
“In a tricky narrative that weaves in and out of the novel’s present (1942–5) and lavishly detailed flashbacks to the characters’ earlier lives, Crowley creates a fascinating microcosm....More rich, satisfying food for thought from one of America’s most imaginative and accomplished novelists.”
-Kirkus Reviews (pointer) for FOUR FREEDOMS
“Although nominally about life at an American aircraft factory during World War II, Crowley’s complex and subtle novel is much grander. . . . Four Freedoms is also a triumph of both research and imagination. . . . A wonderful novel that readers won’t soon forget.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“Ultimately, the significance of Four Freedoms lies in its thoroughness, the sheer specificity. . . . The result is an accessible, painstakingly crafted work that offers many pleasures and rewards. It could be the novel that finally brings Crowley the wide attention he has long deserved.”
“Brilliantly realized .... More rich, satisfying food for thought from one of America’s most imaginative and accomplished novelists.”
-Kirkus Reviews on FOUR FREEDOMS
“One gets the feeling that Crowley loves observing women because he captures them so precisely and so intimately....FOUR FREEDOMS goes back in time... bringing us stories filled with love, loss, integrity, and heart.”
“Four Freedoms is so rich and so evocative and so authentic.”