Look at the photo on the left. If the wrought-iron railing is what appeals to you most, then go for Jonathan Franzen's epic 'Freedom'. If, on the other hand, you are attracted to the beauty of an unmade bed and it makes you want to lounge there, then start by reading 'The Sentimentalists'.
In my case, I love both. And read both. The verdict: Amongst the lauding of Skibsrud's debut novels are the remarks about it being a 'stumbling colt', true; that it could have benefited from more rigorous editing, also true; and that it felt unpolished, somewhat true. HOWEVER, despite its flaws, I was lured by its raw lack of pretension. One might say that it felt Canadian in contrast to Franzen's 'Freedom' which is rife with power and structure.
Mind you, Franzen is a brilliant architect of tragic realism. He shamelessly exposes the flaws of his characters whose comprehensively realized psychologies are compelling, but whose dialogue lapses (too often for my liking) into social commentary. I felt that both novels lacked narrative drive and whereas Jonathan blew me away with his first 160 pages, I was disappointed with the section that went back to 2004. Skibsrud, on the other hand, almost lost me in her first 40 pages or so, but as soon as I read page 47, like the theme of her book, I felt I'd come home. Her prose is absolutely beautiful whereas Franzen comes of lazy in comparison. Still, when Franzen is on, he's ON!
No matter the accolades & awards, these are two truly inspired writers.