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A Novel

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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

Jul 05, 2010 – Nine years after winning the National Book Award, Franzen's The Corrections consistently appears on "Best of the Decade" lists and continues to enjoy a popularity that borders on the epochal, so much so that the first question facing Franzen's feverishly awaited follow-up is whether it can find its own voice in its predecessor's shadow. In short: yes, it does, and in a big way. Readers will recognize the strains of suburban tragedy afflicting St. Paul, Minn.'s Walter and Patty Berglund, once-gleaming gentrifiers now marred in the eyes of the community by Patty's increasingly erratic war on the right-wing neighbors with whom her eerily independent and sexually precocious teenage son, Joey, is besot, and, later, "greener than Greenpeace" Walter's well-publicized dealings with the coal industry's efforts to demolish a West Virginia mountaintop. The surprise is that the Berglunds' fall is outlined almost entirely in the novel's first 30 pages, freeing Franzen to delve into Patty's affluent East Coast girlhood, her sexual assault at the hands of a well-connected senior, doomed career as a college basketball star, and the long-running love triangle between Patty, Walter, and Walter's best friend, the budding rock star Richard Katz. By 2004, these combustible elements give rise to a host of modern predicaments: Richard, after a brief peak, is now washed up, living in Jersey City, laboring as a deck builder for Tribeca yuppies, and still eyeing Patty. The ever-scheming Joey gets in over his head with psychotically dedicated high school sweetheart and as a sub-subcontractor in the re-building of postinvasion Iraq. Walter's many moral compromises, which have grown to include shady dealings with Bush-Cheney cronies (not to mention the carnal intentions of his assistant, Lalitha), are taxing him to the breaking point. Patty, meanwhile, has descended into a morass of depression and self-loathing, and is considering breast augmentation when not working on her therapist-recommended autobiography. Franzen pits his excavation of the cracks in the nuclear family's facade against a backdrop of all-American faults and fissures, but where the book stands apart is that, no longer content merely to record the breakdown, Franzen tries to account for his often stridently unlikable characters and find where they (and we) went wrong, arriving at—incredibly—genuine hope.

Customer Reviews


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.

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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Aug 31, 2010
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 576 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings