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Amazon Best of the Month, August 2010: "The awful thing about life is this:" says Octave to the Marquis in Renoir's Rules of the Game. "Everyone has his reasons." That could be a motto for novelists as well, few more so than Jonathan Franzen, who seems less concerned with creating merely likeable characters than ones who are fully alive, in all their self-justifying complexity. Freedom is his fourth novel, and, yes, his first in nine years since The Corrections. Happy to say, it's very much a match for that great book, a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family (from St. Paul this time, rather than the fictional St. Jude). Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues--among them mountaintop removal, war profiteering, and rock'n'roll--and in some ways can't be separated from them, but what you remember most are the characters, whom you grow to love the way families often love each other: not for their charm or goodness, but because they have their reasons, and you know them. --Tom Nissley
Starred Review. 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.
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light, funny, great at the beginning but gets a bit slow and boring at the end.Published 3 days ago by Vitaly Gladyshev
This book effectively captures the beginning of the 21st century as well as any--from the viewpoint of US citizens, that is.Published 6 days ago by Ross Diercks
I really looked forward to reading Freedom after having read the excellent novel, The Corrections, by Franzen. Read morePublished 15 days ago by C. Collins
I felt that several things dragged this book down. The characters were too flawed, so much that the reader could not like any of them, and they expressed themselves with way too... Read morePublished 16 days ago by Bunnyrabbitson
Slow start but after the first 100 pages you can't put it down. I didn't want it to end.Published 17 days ago by Donna McKenna Blood
Jonathan Frazen did a beautiful job at portraying the realness and cruelty of love and life. Emotions came out of the pages and filled the room I was reading in.Published 20 days ago by Matthew Herman
Oh, how to even begin reviewing this book? I could go on for hours, days, weeks. I can't remember the last time a book made me want to kill myself. But FREEDOM did just that. Read morePublished 21 days ago by Clarice
i am sure that this book was fantastic somewhere in the middle. but as i could not get past the first two chapters i will never know!Published 22 days ago by Perry Rants
Jonathan Franzen has said of fiction that if it “isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown” it “isn’t worth writing for anything but money. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Caleb C. Guard