Sunday, December 12, 2010
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Pub. Date: September 2010
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover , 562pp
Sales Rank: 22
Series: Oprah's Book Club Series
One of the New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of 2010
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.
This book was a monster. I had to challenge myself to read an adult novel, and in recommitting to watching the Farewell season of the Oprah show, I wanted to tackle her first Book Club selection of the year. It happened to be this almost-600 page book with barely-there margins and a negative-size font. Or at least it seemed like that, compared to the young adult novels I'm used to reading. It was a difficult road to stay committed to reading this book and not giving up, given the number of other books I had slowly stacking their way towards the ceiling of my bedroom in my "To be read" pile of books. But I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did! It was a beautifully written novel. The language and wordsmithing was a delight to read. The amount of time it took to read this book seems trivial compared to the amount of time it must have taken to write it. What a labor of love for him. I hope to someday find that commitment to my own writing.