The short story, “Franny”, takes place in an unnamed college town and tells the tale of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her.
The novella, Zooey, is named for Zooey Glass, the second-youngest member of the Glass family. As his younger sister, Franny, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in her parents’ Manhattan living room — leaving Bessie, her mother, deeply concerned — Zooey comes to her aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.
Going into Franny and Zooey, I had no idea what it was about. (In fact, I assumed that Franny and Zooey were lovers!) It was much different, and better, than I expected.
I absolutely loved the Glass family in all their messed up, dysfunctional glory. Franny and Zooey struggle with existential questions. They feel as though the rest of the world is—to borrow Holden Caulfield’s favorite word—phony. Franny, who has become obsessed with The Way of the Pilgrim, a book about constant prayer, struggles to integrate her newfound, lofty feelings about spirituality with the mundaneness and snobbery of academia. Zooey, a part-time actor, does his best to help Franny through her breakdown.
The Glass children (not just Franny and Zooey but their eldest brothers as well, the elder of whom has committed suicide) are intelligent in a burdensome way. Franny and Zooey complain that they were ruined in childhood by their older brothers, who treated them as guinea pigs of a sort, feeding them with all kinds of religious dogma and philosophical ideas. They struggle to connect with others, including their mother, and to find meaning in everyday life.
I think Franny and Zooey are easily relatable; they ask the kinds of questions that many have asked, and they bring ponderable answers to the table.
I don’t think I can do this book justice in a review. It’s a quick, surprisingly funny read. It’s something that everyone should read, and probably more than once.