The powerful bottoming-out moment of young Joey Berglund, one of the protagonists in Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom, who has just eloped with his girlfriend Connie after miraculously pulling off a lucrative but pretty underhanded deal to provide the US military with shoddy parts for some Cold War trucks they were using in Iraq:

The depression that for years had stalked the women nearest him seemed finally to have identified its rightful prey and sunk its teeth in him. The one thing he knew he absolutely had to do, which was to tell his family that he’d married Connie, he could not do. Its necessity filled the little apartment like a Pladsky A10 truck, confining him to the margins, leaving him insufficient air to breathe. It was there when he woke up and there when he went to bed. He couldn’t imagine giving the news to his mother, because she would inevitably perceive the marriage as a pointed personal blow to her. Which, in a way, it probably was. But he dreaded no less the conversation with his father, the reopening of that wound. And so, every day, even as the secret suffocated him, even as he imagined [his new mother-in-law] Carol blabbing the news to all his former neighbors, one of whom would surely tell his parents soon, he put off making the announcement another day. That Connie never nagged him only made the problem solely his.

And then one night, on CNN, he saw the news of an ambush outside Fallujah in which several American trucks had broken down, leaving their contract drivers to be butchered by insurgents. Although he didn’t see any A10s in the CNN footage, he became so anxious that he had to drink himself to sleep. He woke up some hours later, in a sweat, mostly sober, beside his wife, who slept literally like a baby – with that world-trusting sweet stillness – and he knew he had to call his father in the morning. He’d never felt so afraid of anything as of making this call. But he could see now that nobody else could advise him what to do, whether to blow the whistle and suffer consequences or stay mum and keep the money, and that nobody else could absolve him. Connie’s love was too unqualified, his mother’s too self-involved, [his best friend] Jonathan’s too secondary. It was to his strict, principled father that a full accounting needed to be made. He’d been battling him all his life, and now the time had come to admit that he was beaten.