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Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.
But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outré rocker and Walter's college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbor," an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?
In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
This is a great and important book to read. A true marvel.
Glad I didn't listen to the bad reviews
The two iBooks reviews I was able to read, (especially "steaming pile of garbage"), were so bad, I'm glad I ignored them because this was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I read "the Corrections" and "How to be Alone", I liked both books, but this is my favorite.
One of the best books you will read this year!
I am anything but a bandwagon jumper. In 2001 I wanted, oh so badly, to hate The Corrections. It was being read on all the buses and subways and there was that spat with Oprah. Oh. I wanted to hate and hate badly before I even cracked the spine for the first time. In my hate, I ignored this book for four years before I finally read it. In The Corrections, what I discovered was an unpretentious writer interested in trying to create real people who inhabit a real world and make real, sometimes not-so-great, but real decisions.
In Freedom, I found more of the same, and I don't think that's a bad thing at all. There are people here, Walter and Patty and Richard and Joey... All real people, not necessarily the people we would like to be, but maybe people that we know. For this, if nothing else, Freedom is worth reading.
I have talked to a few people that have had problems with Franzen's use of summary/exposition. They feel this breaks the basic "show don't tell" rule that pretty much started with Hemingway and some of the other modernists. IMHO, some of the greatest books (from War and Peace to something like The Savage Detectives) have used exposition really well. I think exposition has a home in novels, maybe not so much in short stories, but in novels one has the ability to create people and worlds through words... So sometimes exposition is an expedient way to convey an ideology or personal belief while constructing a character. Franzen's does this extremely well.
Another thing Franzen does is use his characters to raise questions concerning the state of the world and nation. I have read reviews wherein some readers believe Franzen is using his platform as a novelist to push his "liberal agenda." Also note: most of these reviewers didn't bother to finish the book and willingly disclosed this. If raising questions about society's current and past practices is "liberal," then I think Ayn Rand must be one of the most liberal authors I have ever read.
Reader beware: Freedom is a serious, searching, questioning novel that will have you thinking long after you read the last words. It isn't the greatest novel ever written, but it is one of the greatest novels of 2010.