In chapter one two Ivy League students meet for a date. The young man is an insensitive intellectual jock. He wants an audience for his intellectual pretensions and to have sex. Franny, the young woman, a highly sensitive person, is struggling at college and is having a spiritual crisis. She wants to be herself, have integrity, feel accepted, and to know the meaning of life. She is still young enough to be able think about life's big questions and feel the pain of having no answers.
In chapter two Franny has returned home to recover her equilibrium, and Zooey her older brother, who is an actor, is in the bath reading a script. Their mother, a remarkable character in her own right, is worried. She thinks Zooey ought to talk to his sister to help her. He proceeds to do so in his own unique way. The characters are all wonderfully described, the jock, the mother, Franny and Zooey. The whole 'action' revolves around the dialogue, mostly verbal fencing, but this is no mere novel of manners. Franny is a mixed up kid and is trying to sort it all out with the aid of a little book 'The Way of a Pilgrim', which is the real-life autobiography of an anonymous Russian beggar in the 1850's, and a spiritual classic. Zooey tries to explain it all to her, but as I have read Pilgrim myself I can tell you he makes a complete fist of it, he mixes it all up with Buddhism and Hinduism. Whether or not he helps or hinders Zooey's recovery I'll let you read for yourself, it's well worth the effort. I found this book to be a good read, the characters are so real, I felt like I would know them if I met them, but it has to be said this is not a life-changing work. If you want that, try the 'The Way of a Pilgrim', preferably in the translation by French, which has a few helpful notes.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose