The third inner-crisis moment in our series happens to be the first of several that Patty Berglund, wife of Walter and mother of Joey, undergoes in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom:

“Due perhaps to the nicotine, she spent the entire night sleeplessly replaying the evening in her head, trying to do as [her soon-to-be husband Walter’s best friend] Richard had demanded and get her thoughts straight. But it was an odd mental kabuki, because even as she was circling around and around the question of what kind of person she was and what her life was ultimately going to look like, one fat fact sat fixed and unchanging at the center of her: she wanted to take a road trip with Richard and, what’s more, she was going to do it. The sad truth was that their talk in the car had been a tremendous excitement and relief to her – an excitement because Richard was exciting and a relief because, finally, after months of trying to be somebody she wasn’t, or wasn’t quite, she’d felt and sounded like her unpretended true self. This was why she knew she’d find a way to take the road trip. All she had to do now was surmount her guilt about Walter and her sorrow about not being the kind of person he and she both wished she were. How right he’d been to go slow with her! How smart he was about her inner dubiousness! When she considered how right and smart he was about her, she felt all the sadder and guiltier about disappointing him, and was plunged back into the roundabout of indecision.”

Finally, Patty’s ultimate breakdown, which is also her ultimate breakthrough, as she’s caring for her estranged and now dying father:

“As much as possible, though, Patty sat with her father, held his hand, and allowed herself to love him. She could almost physically feel her emotional organs rearranging themselves, bringing her self-pity plainly into view at last, in its full obscenity, like a hideous purple-red growth in her that needed to be cut out. Spending so much time listening to her father make fun of everything, albeit a little more feebly each day, she was disturbed to see how much like him she was, and why her own children weren’t more amused by her capacity for amusement, and why it would have been better to have forced herself to see more of her parents in the critical years of her own parenthood, so as to better understand her kids’ response to her. Her dream of creating a fresh life, entirely from scratch, entirely independent, had been just that: a dream. She was her father’s daughter. Neither he nor she had ever really wanted to grow up, and now they worked at it together. There’s no point in denying that Patty, who will always be competitive, took satisfaction in being less embarrassed by his sickness, less afraid, than her siblings were. As a girl, she’d wanted to believe that he loved her more than anything, and now, as she squeezed his hand in hers, trying to help him across the distance of pain that even morphine could only shorten – could not make disappear – it became true, they made it true, and it changed her.”